The Knox School of Santa Barbara
HOW TO NAVIGATE BIG EMOTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD
Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
Over the past week there has been heavy media coverage addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Academically talented youth are often exceptionally curious, strongly impacted by issues related to justice and human rights, and, like all kids, have big emotions they are still learning to navigate in healthy ways. Conversations about tough topics are important. They can help youth to get invested in important issues, learn to better manage their emotions, and build empathy toward others. Below are some some tips for talking to your child about the invasion of Ukraine shared by the Student Support Unit at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) :
Talk about it. Avoiding tough conversations can exacerbate unhelpful reactions. Set up time free from distractions, when both of you are feeling calm, and at a time that is not an interruption from something they’re enjoying. You can start this conversation by asking what they have heard, what they’re feeling, and what questions they have. Asking them their questions helps to prevent sharing too many unnecessary details. Reassure youth that adults are doing all they can to keep everyone safe. Try not to expect yourself to have all the answers, you can model being a good information consumer by co-learning with youth. The Conversation published an article further addressing this, and this BBC article also has good information.
Encourage empathy. Often, we and the kids we serve get caught up in disputed issues and forget each other’s humanity. Traumatic events are devastating and frightening for everyone. Someone’s nationality, immigration status, or ethnicity does not make them more or less deserving of kindness and compassion or indicate their beliefs. It’s important to remind youth that we can stand strong in advocating for what we believe is right, while also being respectful towards each other.
Seek to understand and listen. Do some research about the people involved, learn about their backgrounds and their culture. Research the traditions and history of those affected. These strategies encourage appreciation for cultures other than our own. Additionally, you may consider researching and attending a peaceful local demonstration together.
Limit consumption of media, monitor what and how much media your kids are consuming. Academically talented youth are naturally curious, and current technology makes it easier than ever to access near limitless amounts of information. If the news is upsetting to them, any amount can be too much. Common Sense Media published strategies for youth to better understand where information comes from, and Cornell University Library shares an infographic. Consider also setting up protected time, away from media, where youth can appreciate and engage with other hobbies and interests they care about.
Find healthy, helpful, ways to cope with big emotions. Feeling big feelings is part of being human. If some of the active coping strategies above feel like too much, sometimes a distraction is helpful. Consider an active outdoor activity (weather and environment permitting), or find a good puzzle, maze, word or sudoku game, coloring page, or other on-line activity, such as zoos or museums online to explore. Sacramento University shares a variety of good activities in their Virtual Calming Room, including Live Animal Cameras from zoos across the United States.