This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.
Helping Teens Deal with Stress from Current Events
This world is full of stressful news. The constant influx of anxiety producing, negative news can really take a toll on teens. As you might have noticed, it can be hard for adults to manage themselves well when their news feed and social media is bombarded with scary and anger-producing news. If it is difficult for adults, it is even more difficult for teens because they are younger in their human development and have less life experience.
With these things in mind, Vicki pulled on her counselor hat to give a few useful tools for teens during these times. (Vicki is a licensed professional counselor in private practice besides having homeschooled her kids.)
Tools for helping teens deal with stressful current events
There are a several tools for these current-event circumstances that can be stressful to teens.
Situation: There is something scary or stressful going on in the news. Your teen feels overwhelmed and comes to you about it.
You can choose one or more of these tools. On the other hand, you can also use these tools as steps.
Pray about it together
This may sound cheesy and you can say that to your teens. However, explain to them that the Number One thing you both can do is to stop right then and pray about it. Remind them of II Chronicles 7:14 which says:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and will heal their land. KJV
I know it sounds preachy, but do not get on a high horse with this. However, you can also explain I Timothy 2:1-2:
I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
Evaluate who is profiting from how you feel
The truth of the matter is, many of us (especially teens) get their news through social media. Whether it is TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or another platform, somebody is profiting on our attention to their presentations about this current event. Watch and and think:
Who is making money off my big feelings?
- News outlets?
These organizations or people get money from advertisers or supporters. Advertisers pay more for ads on coverage that gets more views, comments, likes or clicks.
Therefore, during “big” current events, news outlets, influencers and commentators tend to use more hyperbolic language. They use intense wording like:
- So and so was SLAMMED on the new today
- Disaster strikes
Just seeing these words causes our blood pressure to rise! When your blood pressure goes up, your brain tells you to watch out! (In media terms that means: watch more!)
Not only that but in video media, people who are profiting off your big emotions will often use anxiety or anger producing non-verbals:
They will speak with staccato tones and exaggerate scary words by saying them loudly.
The WORLD Is Com-Ing To An END!!
Not only that but they often use much more arm, head and hand movement that signals fear and anxiety
So, when you see hyperbolic wording, you know someone is profiting on your anxiety or anger!
Reel those emotions in!
Teach your teens to imagine that their emotions are like a big ball of string. When they feel anxious or angry, those big emotions pull a LONG line of the string out of the ball. Have your teens visual pulling that string back into the ball.
This is SO important. Want to know why? It is because you can only think clearly when your emotions are small! Cortisol, the stress hormone floods and fogs your brain! This turns off the logic system. Instead, of logic the brain reacts with fight, flight or freeze. (The media and influencers are pushing for the fight response.)
You and your teens are not denying that things are happening in the world. Rather, you are refusing to be manipulated for someone else’s profit!
The way to get the big feelings down is to take some deep breaths!
The oxygen from deep breathing is God’s gift to us to neutralize cortisol. Of course, one deep breath will not cure all cortisol. However, breathing exercises done regularly will significantly improve anxiety feelings over time. You can teach your teens some breathing exercises (Progressive Relaxation) with this freebie download from my coaching site.
Enough deep breathing will help bring the logic back online for them! Don’t fund the person or outlet with your anger or anxiety. Instead, breathe and stay clear minded and strong!
Do something practical
No matter what is going on, there is usually something practical you can do. For instance, currently there is a war going on in Ukraine. After praying, you and your teens can send a donation to a reputable organization that is there to help with humanitarian aide. Tell your teens that to these organizations who are helping in humanitarian ways know that every dollar counts. (So do not be ashamed of small donations!)
When I was a kid, I would watch Mr. Rogers on television. He would say:
When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Do something practical like sending a helper a donation!
If there is a local situation, there are often tangible needs that your teens can help with, also:
- Food donations to a church pantry or food bank
- Clothing donations or household goods to organizations like Purple Heart or Goodwill
- Helping out at Habitat for Humanity
- For more ideas on volunteering, check out this Homeschool Highschool Podcast interview with Ticia Messing
Our brains feel better if we are doing, not sitting and stewing!
Contact your elected officials
If it is a national or international current event that is of concern, write:
- The President
- Vice President
- Your Senators
- And your Representative in the House
They have staff that count letters, phone calls and emails. Elected officials know that if none of their constituents ever contacts them about a current event, their constituents do not care about that topic!
Tell your teens they do not need to be subject-matter experts to write a letter of concern. Subject-matter experts can write long, intelligent, information-filled letters. You and your teens are not SMEs so just share how you feel about the situation.
State level elected officials:
- State Senators
- Representative or Delegate
There are also County Councils, Mayors, and more!
You and your teens can also attend local meetings or visit other elected officials.
Teach your teens civility
Character matters. For ideas, check out this episode on teaching teens to be civil in an uncivil world.
When teens have something healthy they can do about stressful current events, they can start preparing to take their places in society- rather than living with anxiety.
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