The sky is falling. Or at least it appears that way to a 13-year-old.
The amount of strife and conflict and negativity in the world right now is enough to make even the most oblivious hipster millennial pause and consider world events.
In the past few months, there have been rumors that WWIII is kicking off, a US President was impeached, climate change is moving from ominous warnings to statements of dire emergency, and the doomsday clock is officially the closest it has ever been to Armageddon.
Are we really 100 seconds away from the ultimate disaster?
Is it shocking that young people today have more anxiety problems than any other generation before them? This doesn’t even touch on the social pressures that teenagers face today. The WhatsApp Instagram lives that they lead all recorded on brief TikTok videos.
At least they don’t have to worry about Facebook since that is now only for old people. Have fun, Boomers!
The scary reality of the world that we all live in is nowhere more apparent than in the questions asked by a child who just spent all day among their peers at school. That is definitely not an isolated environment.
They hear the news. They pass along rumors. Their world is one of half-truths and hearsay. They even think they are getting drafted.
At the tender age of 13, human beings are just starting to become aware of the outside world. Elections? This is the time they start to listen when their parents discuss candidates and major political issues.
The news? Headlines that are designed to frighten adults now have some sticking power in these young minds instead of just being background noise to ignore.
And on top of this, we all have to deal with the coronavirus.
Having just spent an hour reading news articles and online comments about the spread of this infinitesimally small virus that is threatening humanity, I am scared out of my wits.
While the pandemic is frightening, the thought of having to answer questions and provide reassurance to teenage children is downright terrifying.
How do I as a parent reassure my child that the sun will come up tomorrow and the world is not the grim, dark, and evil place shown on the 6 o’clock news?
Luckily, there are many ways to step back and keep the monsters at bay. The methods described below work great for anyone at any age, whether thirteen or thirty.
Spend More Time Together
With a crazy virus running amok, spending time with others may sound counter-intuitive. Apply this advice to your family. That group of people that when together, you feel the most comfortable.
Guess what? Your thirteen-year-old will also appreciate the time. You both will get to focus on the small stuff, the happy and immediate surroundings. It is easier to forget the troubles in the world when dealing with big arguments like whose turn it is to load the dishwasher.
We need a sense of comfort and safety that the family provides now more than ever. There is no better time than the present to redouble efforts to sit down and eat dinner together or to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie.
Start Some Group Projects
Right now is a great time to start some family group projects. Find some crafts. Start a family game night. Play Uno after dinner and the loser has to load the dishwasher.
Group projects bring the focus to the here and now, not the murky and uncertain future. It also focuses on real things instead of rumors and hearsay.
Maybe the dining room needs a new coat of paint, or the garage needs a thorough cleaning. Taking action stops the mind from wandering. Besides, when we grumble and complain about other family members not doing their fair share, it comes from a place of love, right?
Plan Family Travel
Even thinking about travel may scare some people — but not all travel needs to be through crowded airports and train terminals. This is a great time for a road trip. Go camping, see the outdoors.
Just the planning aspects of going to see some of nature’s wonders can change the tone around the house to something more positive and hopeful.
A road trip gets people out of the house and out experiencing things. This helps to reinforce just how big our world is and how much positivity can exist among all the negative noise.
Besides-getting outdoors gives you space to be away from other people!
Build Knowledge With Facts
The absolute hardest thing about large-scale events is avoiding the mass hysteria and panic that accompanies the news and rumors. Young adults scared about big world-changing events need a confident voice that they trust.
To be that confident voice, each parent needs to be responsible for sorting through the noise and finding hard facts to build their own knowledge. This can be very hard to do.
If using the coronavirus as an example, with all the news and sensationalism going around, do you even know when the last pandemic occurred?
If you guessed the Spanish Flu from the early 1800s…. you would be wrong.
The most recent pandemic that spread across the globe was just over 10 years ago. It was in 2009 when the H1N1 swine flu “infected an estimated 61 million people in the U.S. alone and may have killed as many as 575,000 people worldwide in the first year it circulated, according to the CDC.” (quote source)
Guess what? Both you and that precocious thirteen-year-old lived through that pandemic.
Building knowledge regarding what is really going on and not panicking are the best ways to weather the storm, no matter what is causing it.
While things are scary and there will be disruptions and crises related to these current sets of circumstances we are experiencing, the sun will come up tomorrow. We will move on.
Kids are not stupid. They never have been. Would you have settled for being called stupid as a teenager? Lacking in wisdom and experience — certainly. Stupid? Those are fighting words right there!
Kids in 2020 are arguably smarter and more informed than any generation before them, thanks to the ease of access to information. Their view is much more loving and accepting of people and ideas. They embrace rapid change and have huge amounts of compassion and empathy.
I hope that teenagers can save us all. If they need my help, I will be in the bunker.
Thanks for reading!