The events of the Baltimore Super Mom Viral Youtube Video has inspired Lake Mary Counselor to give 5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Affect Social Change. By now you have see the video that went viral Monday of Toya Graham, a Baltimore mother of a 16 yr-old, who when protests turned violent Monday afternoon went out into the streets and manhandled her son in an effort to keep him away from engaging in lawless and looting behavior like many of his peers.

Ms. Graham said she did not want her only son to be a Freddie Gray, referencing the 25 year-old man who died after sustaining sever spinal injuries in police custody earlier this month and whose funeral this past weekend sparked protests that unfortunately turned violent. The single mother of 6 denounced the violence and vandalism and said this was not the right way to get justice for Freddy.  In a follow up interview with CBS news Wednesday, she shared that she would have been much more comfortable with him attending Freddie Gray’s funeral instead of putting himself in harms way.

As parents, your first instinct might be to shield your teen from such images and videos.  However, use such instances as an opportunity to talk to your kids about what they are seeing and what might be some better ways they can affect social change.  Here are 5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Affect Social Change.

  1. Talk With Your Kids. Ms. Graham said that after she got her son home, they watched news coverage of the riots together.  My guess is that they talked about and processed what happened. Ask questions like why do you think they are protesting, what’s the difference between those who protested peacefully and those who just wanted to perpetuate violence? is violence a good way to protest an injustice?  Other questions might be what would you have done if you were there, is it Ok to follow the example of your peers if the motivation is to create chaos?  Use this as a teaching moment to help your child make wise decisions not based on emotions and impulsivity but based on their values and character.
  2. Write About it / Blog. Writing an opinion piece for a newspaper, a paper for class or blogging is a good way for teens to externalize their feelings.  Encourage them to look at situations from all sides before posting opinions on social media.  Remember to tell them that any opinion posted on the internet leaves a permanent footprint.  Help them be wise to not post any threatening remarks towards authorities or victims or anything that could be used later to make a negative judgment about their character as this could affect college or employment opportunities.
  3. Fund Raise. Websites such as GoFundMe and offer people the opportunity to financially support people that have been victims of tragedies with little or no start up cost.  Helping the family of a shooting victim or a pizza shop in Indiana that had to close because of unwarranted media judgment about their free speech can make your teen feel like they are contributing to the people that are hurt the most.  More practically if your teen lives close to a cause or people they want to support they can help with providing food, clothing or friendship to those in need.
  4. Make a Video. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?  Encourage your teen to make a video that will inspire others towards positive change.  They could record a song, perform a monologue, act or do a stunt that will inspire others to take notice and donate time and resources to affect change.
  5. Join a Cause. Rhode Island high school student Grace Miner formed Real Girls Matter to discuss how the media negatively portrays girls. STAND, a student-led group that speaks out against genocide and has hundreds of chapters in high schools and colleges around the world. On Wednesday night the student association at UCF held a candlelight vigil in response to the recent devastating earthquake that struck Nepal.  They created a GoFundMe account to help the victims by whom monies collected will be channeled to UNICEF and the Red Cross.

As a parent, it is important to give our teens a healthy avenue to voice their concerns but also keep them safe.  If they choose to participate in any way for social change or awareness it is important to process with them how did it make them feel to do so?  Did they feel like they made a positive impact and what can they learn from this experience.

It is also important to take our parenting responsibilities seriously like Ms. Graham.  Graham told CBS News she thinks the situation wouldn’t have been as bad if there were more mothers out there monitoring their sons. But she acknowledged there are some circumstances that can prevent moms from being more involved such as being a single parent, having to work more than one job to support the family, caretaking duties, hopelessness and poverty.”We don’t know where those mothers are at, a lot of mothers have to provide for their children,” said Graham. “You can talk blue in your face to your children, but at the end of the day they gonna make their own decisions. As parents we just have to follow through to make sure that’s where they supposed to be at.”

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Author: Lyris Steuber, MA, LMFT is a Lake Mary Marriage Therapist & Couples Counselor with Total Life Counseling Center. Total Life Counseling Center specializes in marriage and families and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.