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Helping teens cope with senseless violence

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The senseless violence that surrounds our children and teens contributes to their anxiety. Already stressed about school and their uncertain futures in a difficult economy and worried about the future of our planet, teens and children need parental support to cope during difficult times. Senseless violence defies explanation, yet it is important that parents address these sad and unwelcome events.

Here are 6 tips to help parents help their teens cope:

  1. Don’t underestimate your teen’s ability to discuss injustice and human behavior. Talk to your teen about the event and ask them why they think it happened and what they think should be done. While their views may be different from yours, it is important to listen to what they have to say.
  2. Remind your teen of your love. Despite what may have recently occurred between you and your teen that has angered or upset you, this is a time to remind your teen that you will go to all lengths to protect them and that your love is unconditional.
  3. Point out the heroism. Talk with your teen about the way people came together to do what they could to help. Point out the ways people can help in tragic situations. Whether it is direct assistance, giving blood at the hospital, stepping up to help direct traffic or inviting people into their homes for safety, knowing that everyday heroes exist is a counter to evil and distinct violent acts.
  4. Review your family safety plan. Talk about what to do in the event a family member is isolated in an emergency. Discuss ways in which the family can reconnect.
  5. Consider a tribute. Talk to your teen about ways to remember those who died or how to reach out to those directly affected by the senseless violence. A caring act done as a family may help comfort your teen.
  6. Maintain a sense of normalcy at home. Don’t let your own anxiety interfere with your teen’s living his or her life. Encourage your teen to continue normal routines and watch for signs of stress or anxiety.

For more information, the National Institute of Mental Health has excellent information on Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Parents Can Do

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