By Janine Nelson, ReachOut

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the QLD and NSW floods front and centre in the news right now, it can be a really difficult time for parents and teens to navigate everything going on.

Even if you’re not directly impacted by a situation, it can be hard to escape bad news – it’s all over TV, social media and often brought up by family, friends and colleagues alike. It can be really hard to avoid being affected by it.

Finding ways to help your teen learn about current affairs in a healthy way, all while supporting their (and your own) mental health and wellbeing is so important during these challenging times.

Right now, your teen might be feeling sad, anxious, scared, helpless, or even angry and confused.

There’s also a good chance they’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant news updates, not sure how to react to it all, and finding it even harder to disconnect from the news cycle.

Combine with this the impact of the pandemic and the normal ups and downs of adolescence, and your teen could be feeling like it’s all too much at times.

Janine Nelson is ReachOut’s Online Peer-Support Community Coordinator. ReachOut is Australia’s most accessed online mental health service for young people and parents.

That’s why ReachOut has put together some tips on ways you can support your teen if bad world news is getting them (and you) down.

  • Check in. If you can sense that your teen seems down or that something is off, it’s important to check in with them. Try using the ‘scale of 1 to 10’ method as this might help you figure out what’s really going on for them, without them having to be too specific.
  • Acknowledge how they’re feeling. Acknowledging that your teen might be feeling stressed, down or helpless will reassure them that you care about them and see their feelings as valid. It might even be a chance to bond over how you’re both feeling right now, help to process what is happening and even build resilience so that they’re better equipped to deal with whatever comes their way.
  • Switch off together. It’s likely that you’ll both be feeling distressed by what’s going on in the world so think about encouraging each other to turn off phone notifications for a period of time and reduce your social media use as a family. You could even create some new ground rules such as only checking the news at one or two set times per day.
  • Educate each other. While it’s important to take a break, it’s also important to be informed so consider making time to discuss the news together. This might also be a chance to encourage your teen to think critically about the news they are choosing to read, consider curating a healthier social media news feed or find a new way to consume the news, such as a podcast.
  • Practice self-care. Make time for the things you both love, whether that be listening to music, reading a book or going for a walk. Self-care can also look like simple acts such as making a cuppa, having a shower or doing one of these breathing exercises. You could even try timing your self-care for after you read the news.

“Acknowledging that your teen might be feeling stressed, down or helpless will reassure them that you care about them and see their feelings as valid.”

It’s important that you’re kind to yourselves and each other during this time so if things are feeling out of control remember that there’s lots of help available for both you and your teen.

You might consider reaching out to a mental health professional or checking in with your GP.

There are also helplines available including Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) if your teen is in urgent need of help.

For more information about ReachOut, visit ReachOut.com/Parents. Young people and parents can also access ReachOut’s online communities to connect with others for peer support.

Janine Nelson is a parent and the Online Community Coordinator at ReachOut Australia. Janine works across ReachOut’s online peer support communities for young people aged 14-25, and parents and carers of young people. She has a degree in psychology and health sciences, and has worked in mental health, disability, and community services for 15 years. She’s passionate about supporting parents, carers and young people.