How have you been able to process current times? Even for adults, it can be difficult to break down what has happened in the last few months into ways that can be understood, let alone encourage us to push on and search out the positive. America has been through the wringer, from facing the coronavirus pandemic, to the loss of innocent lives and the protests and riots that followed. As much as we would like to believe this would make us a stronger, more united front, it has only caused an even greater divide.
Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask? Post opinions to social media, don’t post? Send kids to school, don’t send? Allow them to participate in sports, or make them sit the season out? While some have become more vocal, others have become too fearful to speak up because it is not worth the lost friendships and hateful comments. We’re all feeling the same way and the youth in your life is likely struggling even more. Without the tools and the experiences to find their way through uncertain times, it can be an overwhelming and frightening time.
If you are in a position to influence a youth, we encourage you to consider a few of the following ways you can make current time a little easier.
- Be there. That’s it. Just be there. Be there with a listening ear, with a shoulder, with a kind and encouraging word. Just be there in the way that is most needed. Sometimes it’s for action, sometimes it’s for words and sometimes it’s just for presence.
- Stay busy. Find productive activities that can be used as an outlet for negative emotions, such as exercise, painting, gardening or cooking. The important thing is to make that activity something that can provide a break from negative news and provide a source of accomplishment.
- Be the example he or she needs. Whether it seems like it or not, youth are always listening and watching. If you are using negative language to speak about current times, he or she will do the same. If you always search for the positive ways you can be a part of the solution, the youth in your life will do the same when life presents tough situations.
- Encourage your youth to take a stand. It can be scary to vocalize one’s opinion, especially to a youth that is always under the watchful eye of their peers. Take some time to discuss the importance of being proud of one’s background, values and opinions, and then encourage the young person to speak up when necessary.
- Close the divide. Volunteering is a great way to offer support to those who are working hard to make the world a better place. Get to know the interests of the youth and then search out nonprofits or groups that could provide a stage for growth and opportunity. Whether it’s making masks for the elderly, keeping up with green space in the local park or getting involved in a political campaign, little accomplishments can go a long way when it comes to mental health.