First the news came in about Farrah’s death. A few hours later Micheal died. A few days later, Billy died. Twitter, Facebook and Google were flooded with people wanting to know details, and to mourn.
Your teen daughter may be to young to have adored Farrah or Michael, and she may not have been a fan of Billy’s product pushing. But she is aware that this has been “death week.” Add the grisly death (and video) of Neda in Iran last week, and teens may be struggling to make sense of the world. I’ve been reading notes from teens who are at a loss as to how to cope, especially those teens who have recently lost a friend or loved one.
Parents need to understand their daughters may need help in making sense of and coping with the recent deaths. Here are a few tips to help:
1. Ask your daughter how she feels about the news of the deaths. Let her speak her truth. Do not diminish her feelings by telling her they are silly or uncalled for. All of us are allowed our feelings!
2. Ask how you can help. If she doesn’t know, make a few suggestions. Does she want to draw a picture of the person she is mourning? Will going to a fan page and leaving a comment help? Will spending an afternoon with you her help? Perhaps she just needs to be reassured that you aren’t going to drop dead anytime soon. Let her know you love her and you are there for her.
3. Appreciate that she may not understand death fully. Even mid-teens don’t grasp fully that they will one day die. Talking about death can be hard for them because they are still trying to understand it. Listen to your daughter’s beliefs about death and honor where she is at.
4. Understand that black humor is a coping mechanism. Michael Jackson jokes are already hitting the ethernet. Some are terribly cruel. If you hear your daughter sharing mean jokes, you can use that as a launching pad to talk about how people cope with death, and how information is shared with others. The trick is to be helpfull, not to lecture or punish.
5. If your teen is spending too much time on the computer reading and watching everything she can about a dead celeb, it’s time to help her unplug and get her involved in real life again.
6. Be aware of your own feelings about death and the death of the celebs this week. Many adults Michael and Farrah’s age find it hard to deal with their loss. Take time to do your own grieving, and coping with the thoughts of your own mortality.
Bottom line: be aware of your daughter’s feelings, be supportive and on the look out for any behavior that would indicate she’s having a tough time. If your daughter has been battling depression or anxiety or any other psychological problem, the recent headlines can add to her challenges.
HEADS UP: Although none of the celebs killed themselves (at least none of the news to date indicates that) a teen contemplating suicide might try to act out on those thoughts when she is confronted with so much information on death.
It’s been a rough week. Hug your daughter. Let her know you love her. And gives thanks for one more day on the planet. It’s a gift most of us take for granted.