Talking to Adolescents about Difficult Current Events: Part 2

This week, we’ll set some ground rules for engaging teenagers around events taking place across the globe.  One of the first disclaimers we’d want to make here is that it’s not uncommon for adolescents to be clueless rather than clued in to current events.  Part of being a normal adolescent is being self-absorbed, and if an event doesn’t directly affect their life, they may be disinterested or not dialed in.  Our first job may be to educate them and help them make needed connections.  A great way to accomplish this is to find short videos on youtube or news sites that are age-appropriate and allow them to have a visual.  

The images will be useful in helping them make connections, more than simply having conversation or reading an article in the newspaper, though that can be a useful practice.  Think about how your individual child best makes connections.  

Next, we’d recommend re-reading Part 1  of this entry to review our 3 rules of engagement.  Depending on where your child is in his/her development, they may be straddling the fence between concrete and abstract thinking.  That simply means they are beginning to be able to see more of the complexities of this life.  Everything isn’t just black and white.  They can see that the world is full of gray. 

A practical example of this could be looking at your adolescent and saying.  

  1. I’m assuming you heard the news when you walked into the kitchen this morning.  There’s a good chance you may be discussing some of the events in your World History class today, and I want you to be informed and aware.  I’m grieved that there is an active terrorist group called the Hamas in Israel.  The people who lead Hamas have proclaimed that they want to hurt Jews and to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.  They’ve launched more than 12,000 rockets into Israel in the past 12 years.  I’ve got a short youtube video I believe is important for you to see.
  2. Have any of your teachers initiated a conversation about this at school?  Was it a topic of discussion at youth group?  As is often the case, there is division within our country in how the U.S. should respond to what is happening overseas.  I’d be glad to answer any questions you have about our position on that as a family?  And I’d love to know your thoughts on that as a U.S. citizen and as a person of faith.  
  3. What are some ways that you think we could help?  Asking this question, alongside the last question in section 2, allows our kids a chance to develop critical thinking.  Again, it’s also the birthplace for empathy, an emotional milestone that is a cornerstone of healthy relationships.  Listen for any ideas your adolescent might suggest that allow them to first become aware of others, and then to move from helplessness to compassion.  If they get stuck, it’s ok to join the brainstorming with suggestions like praying, searching the internet for organizations (foreign or local) providing support and relief.