Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
Like most people, adolescents are curious about what has happened in Haiti and about the unfolding of events following the massive earthquake. Chances are Haiti was only on the periphery of their knowledge before the earthquake. It is important to discuss the history of the country and the state it was in just before the earthquake in order to help adolescents make sense of the scope of the tragedy. If they have urges to help, then you can also discuss the most productive way to do that. Many school and community groups are donating part of their normal fundraising activities to benefit the people of Haiti. They might also organize an independent event to benefit an organization, but the important thing is to help them feel useful if they feel called to contribute.
Talking to them about the impact of so much destruction on a poor country is important, too. This can bring in the importance of tithing and how it is used by church ministries, building safety and how this country has learned to build in earthquake zones, and what dangers result from such an event. No doubt they have seen many pictures of Haiti on the web and on television. Helping them process disturbing images can help their understanding and their compassion for what is happening to our neighboring country. Let them discuss their ideas about what will help and what the U.S. should be doing to help, even if you donít agree. Keep the conversation going, too, as events unfold and so that they can continue to process and understand that disasters can impact people for many years and through many generations. If the television images are disturbing, encourage them to avoid those; there are other ways they can stay informed and up-to-date about events.
Finally, transform that energy of concern into a local effort. Once an adolescent is motivated to a social cause, you can support them in their efforts by finding a local charity where they can regularly donate time or effort to benefit the community. By helping them learn to be charitable in their own community, you are helping them become good citizens of their community and the world. They will also be able to respond quickly as adults to tragedies or disasters and they will be able to cope and understand what their role is in helping those in need.