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How Literature Helps Teens Cope With Crises

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

Reading is often quite helpful to high school students in crisis. Whatever trauma someone is experiencing there is probably already a book about it that will help the reader feel less alone in their crisis.

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    Teenagers are in crisis in so many different ways now.Teens are experiencing stress as parents lose jobs in America’s financial crisis. Teens are also too often engaged in violent relationships. Teens are also under pressure to get accepted to college and find a way to pay the tuition. Teens may become overwhelmed by betrayal by friends. Teenagers may also open a Pandora’s box of problems by entrusting their sexuality to someone who is not mature enough to treat them respectfully and honor their privacy.

    Modern literature is often a very helpful coping tool for teenagers.It helps teens to read about other people who have had significant crisis in life and gone on to achieve their dreams and a good life.Teenagers often feel isolated in their problems; they act like they are the only person on the planet who has experienced the problem they are having.

    Literature thus helps teens move out of their minds and their fears and into the larger world.Reading literature helps teens to realize that everyone has had to cope with intense problems along the path of forming an identity, choosing a career, leaving their hometown for college, and difficulties in dating, love, family issues, and every other crisis a teen may face.

    Night by Elie Wiesel

    Many books have themes that help teenagers understand the world. For example, the novel Night by Elie Wieselshows students how intense loss is.The author survived the Holocaust but lost family members.This book helps student see the reality of life can be extremely harsh, and yet one has to find a way to survive and go on to build a life.

    Night shows teenagers that other teens have had to overcome unimaginable heartbreak.This book lets teens see a world they are often protected from, a world that contains evil and a fight for survival.

    Push by Sapphire

    This book is written by a woman who was sexually abused by her father and also to a somewhat lesser extent by her mother. This book of grim realism might prove helpful to other students who were victims of sexual abuse by family members. Teenagers too often isolate and think they alone are having a terrible problem. This book clearly tells teens that many people endure terrible hardship during the teenage years.

    Books about family dysfunction are helpful to teenagers having myriad problems within their family. Push contains graphic language; some schools allow it and some do not. Students do seem very much moved by this book. They connect strongly with the protagonist and are pleased to learn that the author of this book is a very successful writer. Sapphire made it through her struggles; that gives teenagers hope.

    Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates

    The novel Missing Mom helps teenagers who have lost a parent.This novel explores the issue of how life changes after losing a parent. Many teenagers are struggling with this issue and feel isolated. Many students act out at school after losing a parent.This novel may help them understand that an unwanted loss is a fact of life that everyone has to deal with at some point in life.

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    Explore Painful Issues in Literature

    It is helpful to tell students that for whatever problem they are experiencing, someone has probably already written a book about it. Ask the class to idenitfy life issues, and try to identify a book that has addressed each one. Literature encompasses many universal themes. Once students realize that, they may become interested in spending more time in the library finding books they relate to. Help students use literature to gain help during difficult times in life. Reading is a wonderful way to lessen isolation and learn more about life.