Why young people are angry right now and how to talk to them about it
Are the children well?
Some in the Waterloo area may be asking this question after recent reports of threats to schools and a major gun battle involving 150 young people near Kitchener Market.
Dillon Browne is Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo and a Canadian Research Chair in Clinical Child and Family Psychology.
He joined CBC Kitchener-Waterloo The morning edition Talking about what parents should say to teenagers who may be angry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CBC KW: We have seen some violence lately involving younger people here in the community. To outsiders and observers, it may appear that there is a lot of anger in our youth right now. In your opinion as a researcher, are there any indications of what could happen here?
I don’t want to start by debasing anyone’s perspective and there is a lot of anger among young people, teachers and school staff during the pandemic and it looks like we’re facing a little bigger disruption in the New Year.
However, juvenile delinquency has declined year on year since likely the early 1990s.
So my initial inclination is to warn people not to over-interpret an increase in a year against the backdrop of declines over the past few decades.
I hope parents, teachers, and school staff can take comfort in the fact that juvenile delinquency and juvenile delinquency has declined in Canada and even across the country over the past few decades. Ontario is one of the lower provinces of the Canadian countryside.
CBC KW: But if we look at what has happened a few times here in the region. In your opinion, what role does the pandemic play there?
Well, if we were to focus on those numbers this year, I think it actually makes sense to consider the pandemic that is contributing to it. the possibility that youth violence is taking place in schools right now.
As we’ve seen in the past, I guess, for almost two years, there have been a number of closings and disruptions in youth activities, youth clubs, neighborhood organizations, community centers, and all the things that social distancing has somehow gotten the way of.
So there is a framework in the psychological literature that adolescents look for agency and mastery and the ability to be or perform well in any area of ââlife where there is a way to be good.
When other things go away, teens find ways to organize themselves and be “good at” and unfortunately sometimes this can manifest as an aggressive act, or sometimes it can be a TikTok challenge that goes viral and causes damage in the school.
So I think it is really important for our elected officials and policymakers to consider not only the COVID-19 pandemic contagion itself, but its secondary mental health consequences, loneliness, depression, anxiety, boredom and How that can have a ripple effect and show up in other areas of society, including school.
CBC KW: We have been in the pandemic for two years. Does research say there is obviously more implications for the mental and physical health of children and adolescents?
Yes. So even before the pandemic in Ontario and across the country, we were talking about a youth mental health epidemic.
Given what we’ve seen with an increase in the prevalence of mental health problems in adolescents and children over the past two years, I think we have a pandemic in terms of mental health problems in adolescents.
That being said, I don’t want to just draw a doom and gloom scenario, because many young people, many children, many schools, many communities and many families thrive during this time.
In fact, I was lucky enough to be able to research with an organization in the Waterloo area called the Child and Youth Planning Table. And what we see in data from a survey of 1,000 youth at the regional level in 2021 is that teenagers who report a perceived sense of belonging to their community have the highest rates of mental health and higher self-reported rates. His.
CBC KW: You are an expert on trauma, would you say that the pandemic and all the things you talked about – masks, closings, reopenings, closings etc – could be described as traumatic for young people? ?
I hate to throw the word trauma lightly.
Sometimes people differentiate between uppercase T trauma and lowercase T trauma. And when we think of Capital T trauma, we really think of post-traumatic stress disorder and, in childhood, things like child abuse, neglect, mistreatment, witnessing accidents, and the like.
Certainly such events have occurred to a sizeable minority of young people during the pandemic. We know that many families have lost loved ones, especially among the older generation. Certainly some of these great events have happened.
That being said, regarding trauma in lower case, there is a framework that exists right now that collective trauma happens across society as we see many of the things we love go away and then come back and then go away again.
So I think with caution one can say that this was a traumatic season for many of our young people.
CBC KW: What long-term effects do you think the last few years will have on young people as they get older?
It’s hard to say, and I want to highlight that the youth are remarkably resilient.
You are probably more resilient than you or I because we know about this idea called neuroplasticity. And even when young people face difficult and challenging situations where life can change and improve, many, if not the majority of teenagers, have the ability to recover, as we say.
That being said, there are concerns about the effects of lockdown on early learning, early literacy, and social emotional development. And we’ve seen many of those big adolescent milestones disrupted, things like degrees and proms and other transition moments like the first year of college for a whole cohort of young people.
So it is still too early to be able to say with certainty, because as I said, one of the core findings of developmental psychology is that young people are almost always more resilient than we initially think.
That being said, this pandemic is likely to present a significant challenge and burden among those with pre-existing vulnerabilities, particularly including pre-existing mental health problems
CBC KW: What advice do you have for parents who may notice their children or teenagers are angrier these days, what would you advise them to do to help their children through these feelings?
One thing that we might want to avoid doesn’t just apply to children, it can also apply to our partners, our parents, our colleagues, our employees [is] Often times, when we are initially faced with distress or negative emotions in a loved one, our first tendency is to calm down and let go. We say things like, “Oh, don’t worry, honey, you’ll be fine.”
And we really don’t want that, because that is well-intentioned, but it can certainly take the risk of us telling the young person in our life, for example, that we don’t understand how difficult it was.
Instead of doing this, we want to validate first. We confirm the perceived emotional experience in our child or loved one.
We say something like, ‘You know, it makes sense that you’re really angry right now, because it looked like things were going back to normal. And now we hear that it may not get back to normal in the New Year. If anything, it could get worse. “
âSo it makes sense that you are angry and frustrated. You know what? I’m angry and frustrated too. ‘
This is step one. And then the second step is to provide emotional support or comfort or reassurance. It might be a diversion to try something else now. Try to find another activity, to plan a trip, to have a special moment, to connect, to redirect as we say.
CBC KW: How can parents or maybe even young people get in touch if they feel like they are not in the position they want?
Well, one thing I say as a licensed clinical child psychologist is to ask for help.
I think over the past few years the stigma surrounding seeking professional help has decreased, and I think that’s a good thing.
So I always recommend parents and young people get help before they think it’s too late, even if they want to talk to their parents about it.
A simple Google search for psychotherapy or therapy or counseling in the Waterloo area leads to a multitude of clinics and professionals and counselors doing this type of work.
And thanks to technology, much of that work is now available online.
At the University of Waterloo we have a clinic where many of our students offer psychotherapy services online during the pandemic season.
That being said, we still have a systemic problem in Ontario, Canada, where we don’t have fully publicly funded therapy and counseling services for anyone, including young people.
The publicly funded services have a notoriously long queue so this remains an urgent problem and I think we need to continue influencing our elected officials.
LISTEN | UW’s Dillon Browne explains what parents can do when they find their kids have been a lot angrier lately.
The morning edition – KW11:27Are the children well? UW expert on how to talk to kids and teenagers who may be angry
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