Commentary: Current events offer chance to talk to teens
Technology has certainly had its positive influences on children. Yet, teen Web sites and other multimedia seem to have an ever-increasing emphasis on stories about teen suicide, violence in young relationships, and drugs and alcohol use.
Many parents admit they don’t talk with their children about these news items because they don’t believe these things affect their children, or they are afraid to say the wrong thing.
These news events can be viewed as opportunities to talk with your children about how to navigate through difficult times and it can improve your relationship with them.
Take for example, the highly publicized case of young pop star Rihanna. Rihanna was severely abused by her boyfriend Chris Brown: Pictures hit the internet showing her severely beaten face, and news stories detailed her decision to stay with him. Upwards of 50 percent of youth polled believed the beating was at least partially Rihanna’s fault.
Use this opportunity to talk with your children about what makes a healthy relationship: open communication, making decisions together and mutual respect. Any threats of violence, domination or intimidation should result in the end of a relationship.
If your child is typically in relationships where they are either domineering or passive, discuss your concerns and desire for them to be in healthy relationships. Assure them that you think they are wonderful and want them to be with others who see how special they are. If they don’t change, seek help; early relationship styles often lead to life-long patterns.
Most adolescents and young adults contemplate suicide at some time. When your child hears about teen suicide, take the opportunity to discuss how the stress of being a teen can get to some.
When they are young begin talking with them about the “best and worst part” of their day and brainstorm ways to handle hard situations; keep this up throughout their life. Assure your children you might not like all of their decisions, but you will always stand by them no matter what they do.
Let them know that at times you might all need help from a professional about how to get through things, but no matter what, you will get through them together. Make sure they know being a teen won’t last forever. Help every child find sports, hobbies, friendships and spiritual beliefs to keep them busy and grounded.
Unfortunately, our children will continue to be bombarded with many stresses as they grow up. Use news events as golden opportunities to discuss the importance of talking with parents and trusted adults when upset, having positive outlets, choosing relationships carefully, and believing in oneself.
– Lisa Keating, Ph.D., is a Carson City clinical psychologist.