HOUSTON, February 19, 2021 – The last year has brought its share of traumatic and life-altering events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, economic stress and most recently, a catastrophic winter storm in Texas that left millions without power and water, sometimes for several days. These situations can be confusing and overwhelming to children and teens who are trying to make sense of the upheaval, which is why Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston is offering guidance to parents in talking to youth about stressful events.
In turbulent times, the role of a caring, mentoring adult is paramount. Although the greatest direct impact is on people of color, all youth need to learn to process these events, hear from their peers and adults about experiences that may not mirror their own, and think about their roles in creating a more just and inclusive society.
“Recent events involving the devastating winter storm, frigid temperatures and loss of power and water, combined with the reality of a pandemic that is far from under control, create anxiety and fear for many people, youth included,” says Kevin Hattery, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston. “We know during crises like these that our underserved and economically fragile populations take the hardest hit.”
“Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston takes a holistic approach to serve not only children and teens, but their parents and caregivers, including food pantries and wellness check-ins,” continues Hattery. “Our Clubs in a five-county area offer members a safe haven where they can experience first-rate after-school programming, receive nutritious snacks and feel secure in expressing their feelings and fears.”
To help youth process their feelings and cope with anxiety during a time of confusion, adults should create a safe and supportive space for them to share their thoughts, concerns, hurt and pain. Having this support system in place is critical to helping kids work through issues and to heal emotionally. Tips to help children and teens cope with stressful or traumatic events include:
- Process your own emotions and use selfcare strategies: Kids will look to you as a role model for how to cope with troublesome incidents.
- Initiate dialogue: Show kids that you understand what is going on and are here to support them by bringing up difficult topics.
- Address the incident directly: To get the dialogue started, ask them what they have heard and what they know about the incident.
- Show willingness to answer questions: Kids will feel more comfortable discussing the incident or related events if they know you are willing to answer questions and listen to their concerns.
- Listen to and validate feelings: Ask them to share their feelings about the incident and respond with empathy as validation that you are listening.
- Reassure safety: Help them feel safe knowing there is a plan in place for emergencies.
- Continue the dialogue: Check back in regularly during the coming weeks to see how they are coping with and processing the incident.
- Look for solutions: Youth are action-oriented – Ask, “What can we do to create positive change in our community?” and support them in starting a meaningful project or campaign.
In the wake of the pandemic, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston has continually adapted its model to meet the needs of Club members and parents in innovative ways, including virtual programming, Blue Learning Labs for distance learning during school shutdowns and the ON DEMAND Experience, with interactive, experiential learning. Club members have gotten help to keep them on track academically and to stay active through caring mentors who assist them with processing the many adjustments brought on by COVID.
Additionally, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston launched a racial justice initiative for teens last summer called Be The Change You Want 2, which included two town halls, one local and one national. The objective of the program is to amplify youth voices and activism through critical and intentional conversations, artistic expression and service projects.
To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, please visit www.bgcgh.org.
Link to photos here.
Photo Caption: Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston is offering guidance to parents in talking to youth about stressful current events, including the recent catastrophic winter storm and its aftermath. Photo credits: Henrich Perez (young girl). Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston (two boys.)
About Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston
Our mission is to inspire and enable all youth, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. Our vision is to put success within reach for our Club members and keep them on track to graduate high school. We help them realize a positive plan for the future that includes good character, citizenship, workforce readiness and a healthy lifestyle. Each year, more than 30,000 youth ages 6 to 17 walk through our doors for our after-school and summer programs. At our Clubs, youth are provided meals, strong role models, homework assistance, organized athletics, character development and access to the arts. Membership costs just $10 per school year and $25 for the entire summer. We are a United Way agency. For more information, visit our website www.bgcgh.org. At Boys & Girls Clubs, we do whatever it takes to build great futures!