The events of this week have been stressful and eye-opening. As a Canadian, it has been difficult watching what has been happening in the U.S. I am mostly referring to the horrible racist/sexist/xenophobic hate crimes that are being committed after the election. I’m sure that for any child, watching the news could be very traumatizing. I’m sure that they will have many questions.
My question or query is, does anyone have any suggestions on how to discuss this with our clients or any young person who might be seeking guidance , counselling, or is trying to understand what is happening?
Any suggestions would be great.
And I also do not wish to have any political discussions or debates in regards to this matter. We all have our individual opinions but I believe in this matter, they should be left out and we should simply stick to our guidelines as Child and Youth Care Practitioners.
I have these discussions with young people all the time. My approach is always to take their lead and ask them what they know, what might be confusing for them and what their feelings are. The discussion usually flows quite naturally from there.
Hope this helps,
I think Nancy has put it very well and I think I would do the very same thing.
I have been thinking about the whole US election issue (as has the rest of the world) and I am still a little bit shocked and saddened by it all. I told my own kids that capitalism promotes greed and self interest, the consequences of which are often resentment, hostility and hatred. That is what we are seeing on the streets of the US. I am conscious that this explanation may be a little over-simplistic but on another level it’s not. I don't blame Mr. Trump. He just provided a platform for an energy that clearly already existed just below the surface in American culture. I just hope it settles down and he gives us all a pleasant surprise!
On a separate but related issue, I couldn't but notice Conor Mc Gregor's UFC success (if that is what it was) at the weekend. I am left wondering if there is a connection between the growth in popularity for the savage brutality that is UFC, and the sexist aggressive energy that got Mr. Trump elected? It seems to me that western so called 'developed' cultures are in crisis and I am reminded that at the end of the day we are all animals. It is just that some of us hide it better than others!!!
I was talking with some colleagues about this and I think it’s a really important question.
I think we often fail to understand the concerns that young people have, or we try to hide our own fears and concerns about the world out of a sense of protecting them. I think that in this case more than other events in recent history we need to do better to get that right. The young people that we work with already understand that we live in uncertain and scary times. If they aren’t coming to our attention because their personal lives have been filled with scary and uncertain things, they certainly aren’t immune to alarmist news stories being shared on the net, a sensationalist media machine, and all manner of people out there spelling out the end of the world within their lifetimes. And while we as adults have some skills and support to critically deconstruct at least some of these things and avoid getting caught in it, they might be scared or worried to bring it up with the adults around them in case the adults do confirm that this is the end of the world as we know it.
So, I think it’s important to make space and talk about it. Talk about it without downplaying their concerns, but help them understand that maybe their scale of concern isn’t matched to the situation yet. Teach them about what they can do if they want to get involved. If they are scared find them stories about people who have stood up for their rights, and stood up against the government before, and that they will find people in this generation who will do the same. Teach them how to stand up for each other and take care of each other and how to make sure that everyone stays safe together. Teach them that they are powerful and that they have a voice. That they don’t just have to accept what is going on and that there are people who will listen to them.
Neil Gaiman is an author who writes a lot of kids books (and adult ones too) and he often comes under criticism for writing fairly scary stories for younger readers, and he has one of the best defences for doing so. The worlds that young people live in are scary and uncertain already. They are already familiar with that fear, so let’s give them a medium to talk about it and relate it back to their world.
I think our practice needs to be similar. We need to recognize that many of the young people we work with have really valid reasons to experience the world as confusing and unsafe even prior to this election and the current spike in hate crimes. We need to be talking openly about it with them and providing them with spaces and approaches to increase their sense of safety.
Alexis I would also note that a lot of people voted for the new President and whether we agree or disagree with his politics this is not actually our job to decide for our client. You do not know, for example, that the child does not come from a culture and/or family that might support some of what was stated by Trump. Note that part of what could be interpreted by the election results is that many people no longer feel included in much of what is being created socially. For example they may not agree with homosexuality or may be very clear that abortions are unacceptable and yet believe that they are now being told that these beliefs are wrong.
It is always interesting how the harder we work to be inclusive to one group the more it can cause another group to feel left out.
I do take a personal stand against violence and am clear that it is against the law however I am careful in deciding for another what their beliefs should be or what is `right' for them.
I would thus also agree with Nancy as I would also insure that the child takes the lead. As what we create trauma through is also very individual and thus what you see as trauma they might not.