Teens and Tragedy

You may have been heard warnings about exposing young children to too much of the televised re-tellings of the tragic events. Teenagers, though, are at a different point in their lives. While some may be uninterested in the news, others will want to be glued to the TV, eager for each fresh detail as it emerges. Allowing them to pursue their level of curiosity is usually best, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) They need to also engage in non-tragedy related activities to maintain a balanced perspective.

2) When they are focusing on the tragedy, it is wise to get them to take constructive action (write letters, create poems, collect pennies, call the red cross, etc).

3) Remind them of other historical tragedies (Pearl Harbor, the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the 1812 destruction of Washington D.C. by invaders) and how we emerged stronger after each one. (They are mature enough to grasp the gravity of the present situation, but need our help with putting it all in context).

4) Engage them in mature discussion of events (who do you think did this, why did they do it, what should be done about it, how do we prevent it in the future, etc.)

5) Remind them (and everyone) how important it is not to lump people of one faith or one nationality together, angrily blaming people who share our grief at the inhuman actions of September 11th.

6) Collect and share stories of humanity, courage, triumph and love. Even in the midst of this horror, beauty is shining strongly. This event could bring you closer together than ever before.

Published on: September 15, 2001
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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