Talked with a friend on the phone yesterday. A mentor really. He asked what I was thinking and feeling about the multiple disasters in Japan. My answer was immediate.

“I’m watching it through the eyes of my son.”

Teenage boys are prone to absent mindedness. Sometimes they will even leave their Facebook page open on your laptop. We’ve got a ‘we can ask to look at your Facebook page anytime’ policy in our place anyway (it kind of works). I saw something he had written on his ‘chat’… ‘the world is ending’. The mighty Lisa (aka ‘better half’) is an astute observer and mentioned that we should keep an eye on the young bloke.

“He’s frightened”. Lisa spots things as they are.

When I was my son’s age, I recall that period of time between, first becoming aware of the exponential number of times Earth could destroy itself with its own nuclear weapons and later, managing to rationalise that such an event is unlikely and that if it did happen, we wouldn’t know about it for too long. In that gap of time (which was a few of my early teenage years) I thought every time a plane went overhead that that was the bomb on its way to hit the GPO. Did you ever wonder why those graphs showed nuclear fallout extending from the General Post Office? That only fuelled my fear further… ‘how can they be so accurate?’

During that gap in time, quite simply, I was frightened. I felt silly about that because after all, I was growing up. I had too much and not enough information all at the same time.

A few years later, as an older teenager, I told someone I had held these fears. She explained that when she was a girl, every time a plane went over her house, she thought it was the communists. So, back in the 1950’s, in orchard country outside Melbourne, the ‘reds under the bed’ were scaring a teenage girl who later on, became my mum.

I told that story to my good friend and mentor yesterday. He had the same fears growing up that the commies were going to get him.

Maybe every generation of teenagers experience large world moments in ways that render feelings of powerlessness. If you are twenty-something, how does September 11 house itself in your memory?

What do we do?

If you are a parent of a teenager – tell your kids if and when you were frightened of stuff when you were growing up. What made you get over that? Tell them.

If you are a teenager reading this, ask your mum or dad if they were frightened by stuff when they were younger. And don’t in any way feel silly about feeling scared – even show them this post if it can help get the conversation going. You know how I just said I had too much information when I was a kid… well, now you’re a kid and you’ve got access to that thing they call the internet.

We are all watching it together. Sometimes we don’t check with each other how it’s being taken in. Those little acts of concern, of love really, are the ways that we can deal with the terrible tragedy that is beaming into our homes. There are people doing amazing things to help each other in Japan… we can help further away by just checking in with each other – face to face.

Step away from the screens for a few moments everyone.

Talk. Listen.

In checking this out with the young bloke, it was evident he had consumed a fair number of media stories and angles on the topic. I explained that his mum thought he might be frightened, he said he was mostly just ‘sad’. He then went into a whole bunch of things he had been learning from reading about the Japan crisis. He had taken a lot in.

“I’m okay dad, I just hope that they get serious about different ways to make energy after this. But I don’t think they will… that’s why I said ‘the world is ending’.”

The young bloke’s assessment is direct – there is no way to pretty that up. However, I do appreciate he told me a bit of what was going on in his head and heart.

Feel free to write add your thoughts below.

Bill Jennings