When you think about it, kids find the news distressing for the same reasons adults do—a sense of helplessness in the face of suffering, and the feeling that so much in the world is beyond our control. Talking to your teens about underlying causes, the inevitability of conflict and natural disasters, and the resilience of the human spirit can ease their anxiety, but sometimes that can all feel terribly inadequate. "Fact is, news about bad stuff of any kind, no matter how far away, is unsettling," says Briggs-King. "But it's also true that kids feel better about themselves when they try to improve things."
Parents can help by suggesting ways their kids can step up, whether it's going green to combat global warming, sending relief supplies for victims of floods or quakes, or honoring those who've sacrificed their lives. "You can do a bake sale to support our troops abroad or round up toys for the children of military families," Briggs-King says. "It doesn't have to be big. Just doing something is tremendously empowering and helps kids feel more secure."
If you show empathy and encourage your kids to do the same, you'll both reap the benefits. "When it comes to talking about current events, what parents seem to want to do most is share their values," says Walsh. "It's not about forcing their beliefs on their children. They just want to get across why they think and feel the way they do. This is a chance to do that, and show them the ways all of us, no matter how scary the news, can make a difference."
Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.