Data from the most recent National Survey of Adolescents and other studies indicate that one in four children and adolescents in the United States experiences at least one potentially traumatic event before the age of 16, and more than 1% of 17-year-olds—one in eight—have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. PTSD has been associated with a death in the family or a divorce in many cases, but maybe its time to include the stress children and teens face from fearful societal events.
Let’s face it – we live in frightening, unpredictable times. If we are feeling a bit jittery about the violence, drugs, unpredictable weather conditions, current events or a troubled economy where breaking news circulates not only on the television airwaves, but the computer, tablets and mobile device mediums as well. If adults are having difficulty stomaching these stressful times, imagine how our kids must feel. Horrific television images of real disasters and terrifying events reinforces their fears.
It does not help that our teens now have more and more access to a wide range of psychoactive substances that can both dull the effects of stress and place teens at increased risk of experiencing trauma. It is estimated that 29% of adolescents–nearly one in three–have experimented with illegal drugs by the time they complete 8th grade, and 41% have consumed alcohol. The legalization of marijuana in many states is not helping the matter either. Let’s face it teen substance abuse is here to stay.
For many adolescents, such early experimentation eventually progresses to abuse of—or dependence on—illicit drugs or alcohol. Every year, approximately one in five American adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 engages in abusive/dependent or problematic use of illicit drugs or alcohol
We live in a time where this is the first generation of children who have watched broadcasts of terrorists attacks, school massacres, natural disasters, and broadcasts of war in their living rooms. The truth is: the image of the world as being mean and scary is terrifying for us and affecting our kids’ well-being.
What can parents do to allay their children’s fears?
Constantly hearing about the troubling events in the world does more than increase children’s anxiety, it lets them view the world as a scary place. We as parents cant’ fix the issues in the world, but we can help lessen those fears and let our children see their world in a more positive light.
Here are a few parenting tips to help reduce your kids anxiety during uncertain times:
Observe your child closer when a disturbing event occurs – Remember, most children are more sensitive than we may be, so don’t minimize their level of fear. If something terrifying in the news occurs like a terrorist attack, don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about it. Communication is a parents strongest tool.
Be strong – You can’t help lessen your kids anxiety unless you keep your own in-check. Take care of yourself by staying healthy. We can’t be mentally strong when the need arises if we are in poor health mentally and physically.
Monitor scary news – Limit your child’s viewing of news that features an alarming event. If they happen to be watching one, try your hardest to be there! Watch with them to answer their questions.
Don’t be an absentee parent – This is where you need to stop and give your child a big hug and say “I love you.” Just because you child isn’t talking about the latest tragedy, doesn’t mean he or she didn’t hear it. Explain the facts so he can have a better understanding. Your the best source for that kind of information. Your child also needs to know that it is okay to share his or her feelings with you and that it is normal to be upset.
Be a Proactive Parent – Learn methods on how to lessen your kid’s fears before they happen. This will provide your child with a high level of confidence due to your preparation and quick answers to difficult questions.
These are tough times for everyone, but especially for our kids. World events are unpredictable. Tragedies seem to be all over the news daily. As much as we’d like to protect our children, unfortunately there are some things we can’t control. What we can do is help our children learn ways to cope and those tools will help our children to better handle whatever may come their way.
Anxious kids are more likely to develop depression, and as these children become teens with depression and anxiety they are much more likely to become involved with substance abuse. Anxiety symptoms are showing up in kids as young as three years old. If your child shows signs of anxiety, don’t wait, get your child to the doctor.