The holiday season has arrived and many are still recovering from the stress of the recent presidential election. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2016), 52 percent of American adults reported that the 2016 election was a very or somewhat significant source of stress. Not only does this stress impact adults, but children also experience anxiety as a result of the rhetoric that was expressed towards marginalized groups such as women and ethnic minorities. The APA survey noted that the most stress was reported among Latinos (56%) followed by Whites (52%), Native Americans (52%), Blacks (46%), and Asians (43%).
With the influx of social media use, it is inevitable that children and adults will be exposed to political topics and issues that were expressed during the campaign over the next few weeks. This exposure will continue to play a role in individuals’ potential stress over the holiday season. The survey from the APA revealed that social media affected Americans’ stress levels. Specifically, approximately 4 in 10 adults (38 percent) reported that political and cultural discussions on social media caused them stress (APA, 2016). In addition, adults who used social media were more likely than adults who did not to say the election was a very or somewhat significant source of stress (54 percent vs. 45 percent, respectively).
As the holiday season continues, below are a few suggestions from the American Psychological Association for talking with children and helping them cope with stress and anxiety.
Make them feel safe: You want to put kids and teens at ease so they feel comfortable talking to you. It is essential to make it clear why you are talking with them. Kids especially are fearful that they may be in trouble or are being punished if they are pulled aside to talk. Reassure them that this is not the case that you are there to offer support. Parents might consider scheduling a time to talk one-on-one on a regular basis, such as having lunch with your kid or teen weekly or biweekly.
Listen to them: Take the time to actively listen to what your kid or teen has to say. Many times, all kids or teens want is someone who will listen to them. Try to understand their perspective before offering suggestions. Sometimes your own anxiety can prompt you to try to fix everything. But in many cases the best help you can offer is to listen attentively.
Affirm and support them: If a kid or teen tells you they’re feeling sad or upset, for example, tell them you’re proud of them for sharing their feelings. Let them know you appreciate the courage it took for them to talk with you and for trusting you to help them. If your kid seems to need more help than you can provide, consult with an appropriate professional. You may want to start by talking to the school psychologist.
Be genuine: Try to avoid speaking from a script. Teens can tell when you’re not being genuine. If you are open, authentic and relaxed, it will help them to be the same.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”: As a parent or teacher, it is OK to admit that you don’t have all the answers. However, if a kid or teen asks you something, you should make every effort to find an answer or someone who can help.
If needed, speak to a therapist or psychologist who is trained to help people cope with stress. The APA (http://locator.apa.org/) and Find a Psychologist (http://www.findapsychologist.org) provide resources for locating a therapist in your area.
Copyright 2016 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
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