Navigating Difficult Conversations: Addressing Tragedy With Teens.

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Today a 15 year old teenager was murdered on her way to school in Croydon.

We were buying my husband’s birthday presents just down the road in Valley Park Retail Park & saw the police helicopter flying overhead

I know Croydon very well as we live 20 minutes away & my Mum & Dad used to live in Sandilands.

In an extraordinary coincidence the lady running our Puppy Class today was on her phone distressed as her daughter is in the same Class as the murdered girl Eliyanna Andam so I offered to work with her if she needed support.

So here are my thoughts about talking to teenagers about a tragic event like the murder of a child in their class as it is incredibly challenging but crucial.

Here’s a guide on how to approach this sensitive conversation:

Find the Right Time and Place:

Choose a quiet, comfortable & private space to talk.

Ensure you have enough time for the conversation without interruptions

Be Informed

Gather accurate information about the incident to provide facts if needed

Be prepared to answer questions, but avoid sharing gruesome details

Be Empathetic & Supportive

Begin by expressing your condolences for the child’s family & acknowledging the tragedy

Let your teenagers know that their feelings, whether confusion, sadness, anger, or fear, are valid & normal.

Encourage Communication

Let them know you’re there to listen & talk whenever they’re ready

Emphasise that it’s okay to share their thoughts & feelings with you, friends, teachers, or a counsellor

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Encourage them to express themselves by asking questions like, How are you feeling about this? or What thoughts are on your mind?

Validate Their Feelings:

Avoid dismissing their emotions or trying to minimise the situation. Instead, validate their feelings by saying, ‘I understand this is really hard for you.’

Provide Reassurance

Reassure them of their safety & the school’s efforts to keep everyone secure

Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared but that such events are rare

Discuss Coping Strategies

Talk about healthy ways to cope with difficult emotions, such as talking to a counsellor, journaling, or engaging in calming activities

Monitor Their Behaviour

Keep an eye on their behaviour for signs of distress, such as withdrawal, changes in sleep patterns, or declining school performance

Maintain Routine

Encourage them to stick to their daily routines as much as possible, which can provide a sense of stability

Seek Professional Help

If you notice signs of severe distress or if they’re struggling to cope, consider involving a mental health professional

Stay Connected

Continue to check in with your teenagers regularly to see how they are doing and if they have any questions or concerns.

Remember that every teenager reacts differently to such traumatic events. Providing a safe & supportive environment for them to express their feelings is key to helping them process their emotions & heal
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