TEENAGERS DEAL WITH
STRESSFUL TIMES IN DIFFERENT WAYS
by Susan Ginsberg, Ed. D.
should parents respond to their expressed and unexpressed feelings
about events such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001?
of teenagers change dramatically between ages 13 and 17. Like younger
children, teens¡ reactions to stress depend on their age, temperament,
level of maturity and personal involvement.
TEENS FACE DISTURBING EVENTS:
may express their anxiety through a range of behaviors that seem unrelated
to what¡s going on, and they are likely to Àpush the envelop” and take
more risks than they normally do.
an effort to be Àcool” or get a rise out of their parents, some teens
(preteens too) may make inappropriate jokes, downplay scary events,
refuse to discuss their feelings and immerse themselves in the Àpopular
teens try not to let on that they are scared. ÀMy kids are able
to talk about their worries with their friends but not with me, so
I¡m trying to connect them
with other adults they can talk with,” says a mom with two teenagers.
teenagers are more likely to worry about the future†being drafted
or the impact of a recession on their families. ÀThere¡s a lot
of talk about this being the
test of out generation,”
says Lizzie Tannen, a 17-year-old college student. ÀI guess we¡ve
wanted something to fight for, something to define us-and this seems
to be it for right now.”
PARENTS SHOULD DO:
what you¡re doing and really listen to what your kids are saying.
Hug them more, touch them more and eat together, even if it means
adapting your schedule or giving up some other activities.
family routines, rituals, and rules. It¡s more important than ever
to set limits and be clear about your expectations. ÀAdolescents¸want
to be around safe people in familiar
says Dr. Anne Marie Albano of the New York University Child Study
for changes in mood, sleeping or eating patterns or in relationships
with friends. Teenagers will likely experience some of the same difficulty
with concentration that many adults have reported, so don¡t be surprised
if there¡s a dip in grades when November report cards come out.
teens translate their concerns into positive action. Wonderful volunteer
projects have been launched since September 11th. Many
creative efforts have gone beyond fundraising, such as teleconference
between a group of teenagers from Oklahoma City and a high school
in New York City.
that many older teenagers will be talking to each other¡s about more
abstract concerns such as the morality of the bombing and the balance
between security and civil liberties. You may not like what your children
are saying, but it¡s important to provide them with a zone of comfort
in which they can freely exchange their views. Dr. Robert Needlman
encourages parents to Àsupport connections with school groups,
religious institutions and community organizations that provide safe
structures in which teens can deal with these tough issues.”
advantage of this Àteachable moment.” Most of us have a lot to learn
about the people, history, religion, and geography of the Middle East.
And while the current situation is unique-the first time we as a nation
are facing this kind of terrorism, there are still similarities to
stressful events that we have dealt with over the years. ÀTalking
to people who lived through Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President
Kennedy or even the Gulf War can help put current events into a larger
perspective,” suggests parent educator
this as an opportunity to also discuss the human tendency to fear
and distrust people who are not like us. Teach children that hate-based
violence usually starts with words, then escalates. Point out when
ethnic groups are stereotyped on television, in music or in books.
Address and biased comments children make and help them understand
that these words are unacceptable under any circumstances.
important for our children to see that we care about people, about
justice in the world and about bringing an end to people hating people,” says Patricia Wipfler,
founder of the Parent Leadership Institute.
from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)