How to Talk to Teens About Traumatic Events
A traumatic event can be anything from the death of a friend, to a hurricane, to war. Events can be experienced up close and personal, or through the news media. Both ways can be traumatic to children and teens. Before talking with your teen about traumatic events, you should take time to think about the issue and consider what it means to your family. Each family is unique, with its own special history and past experiences of loss, trauma, and war.
Be open, available, and positive. Parents can create an environment that supports communication among all members of the family - even when the conversation is about war and terrorism. Finding time to have those conversations is not hard. One way is to use family times (such as mealtimes) to talk about what is happening in the world.
Express an interest in what your teen is hearing from friends. Teenagers are likely to discuss events they experience with their peers. In some cases, these conversations may contain wrong information. Help to correct any misinformation and reduce worry. Ask your teen how their friends are handling the situation. This can open a dialogue with parents. Teens will often tell you how their friend is but not how they are doing.
Make time to watch and discuss the news with your teen so you can help clarify misunderstandings or conflicting news reports. Teenagers have wide access to the news, whether on television and radio, in print, or on-line. Parents should monitor their teens for over-exposure or excessive fascination with media coverage. Limit the amount of time the TV is on in the house - especially if a scene is played over and over.
Share your thoughts. Be honest, but answers should be consistent with your child's level of understanding. Teenagers are beginning to understand abstract ideas and also to view the world in more realistic ways. They understand the concepts of unpredictability, death, and terrorism. Parents need to share with their teens that they, too, are thinking about the trauma and are there to answer tough questions or help with difficult feelings.
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