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Supporting Adolescents During Times of Crisis

Information about how to support children during times of crisis mostly focuses on early childhood. Yet tweens and teenagers are more likely to be exposed to media coverage of these events without the benefit of parental filtering. These young people also have the cognitive maturity to understand some of the magnitude of what they see, but are still learning coping techniques to navigate distress. So how can we support youth right now?

Adolescents are sensitive to social relationships, and trusted adults can play a key role in influencing reactions. Here are some ways we can support the adolescents in our lives during troubling times:

  • Talking about the situation. Young people are most likely to discuss these events with parents and other adults in their family, especially when so many students are not in physical classrooms. Listen to young people’s thoughts and correct misinformation as necessary.
  • Maintaining routines as much as possible. Sufficient sleep, nutrition, and positive family time are always important to mental health.
  • Ensuring access to other supportive resources. These can include time to connect with friends, mindfulness apps, talk lines, or online meetings with a therapist or school counselor.

Finally, remember that there’s a wide variation in young people’s responses. Previous research into adolescents’ reactions to the Unite the Right rally in 2017 found a range from unconcerned to disillusioned to fearful. These feelings may differ based on age, proximity to the event, racial identity.

Young people are going through an overwhelming point in our history, but they can be remarkably resilient. With support, they can come to define themselves as the generation that is ready for anything.

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