Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Leading Your Group This Weekend
For those of you who are leading teens this weekend, here are a few questions to consider with reflections from our education and training team:
1. How much space should we devote to talking about the election?
In your group there may be some teens who are exhausted by election conversation and need a place to discuss other things in their lives. And there may be some teens who need to have a safe space where they can talk about the election and their feelings around it. If you can, gauge their interest in talking about the election with a few prompts and be mindful of the group dynamics.
Here is an example of how you might gauge their interests in an online meeting:
Ask people to type in the chat, but NOT hit enter until everyone has written in their answer the following questions. Note: This could also be set up as a zoom poll before you get on your zoom.
On a scale of 1- 10 How much stress did election news give you this week?
On a scale of 1-10 How much have you talked with your friends about the election?
On a scale of 1-10 How much do you want to focus our conversation on the election?
Another option is to do a Mood Meter Emotions Check In. This is a good tool for teens to reflect on how they are feeling, and for you the Group leader to gauge how everyone is feeling. It provides a way to surface and acknowledge emotions without necessarily opening a conversation about content that could be harder to navigate for your and/or the teens in your group.
To do a Mood Meter Emotions check in take these steps before you meet::
- On Polleverywhere.com, create a free account. Then, click on activities in the top menu and select “Clickable image” with the prompt, “Click on the emotion that you are feeling MOST right now.”
- In the image field, upload this Mood Meter image (you’ll need to download to your computer first): https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2020/09/23/NSHT/cc42e7d6-54f2-490d-9673-cfd53982a618-moodmeter.png. Click “Create.”
- “Activate” the survey.
- Have the link to the survey ready (you can find it at the top of the screen)
Then, when you meet with your teens:
- In the Chat, share the survey and invite participants to respond. We recommend that teens access it via their web browser so they can read all the emotions.
- Share your screen with the anonymous results. Read aloud some or all the emotions that participants selected. Validate the range of emotions (there are a lot of different emotions people in this group are having right now!) and encourage teens to think about how they might support people in the group who are feeling differently from them.
Facilitator’s Tip: You might alternatively decide to do this activity by Share your screen with the Mood Meter image https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2020/09/23/NSHT/cc42e7d6-54f2-490d-9673-cfd53982a618-moodmeter.png, and ask participants to click on “annotate” and put a checkmark or a star on the emotion that they are feeling.
Depending on your settings, the names of people are visible as they write on the whiteboard. In order to make a whiteboard anonymous, whoever is sharing the whiteboard will need to go into the toolbar at the top of the screen and click on the three dots. Then, choose “Hide names of annotators” from the drop-down menu.
Note: If there is even one participant who is not super-enthusiastic about reflecting on the election, it is probably best to move the conversation in a different direction. Another option you could consider is to end your meeting 10 or 15 minutes early and invite anyone who wants to talk about the election to stay on after the official close of the session.
2. How prepared are you for teens in your group to challenge or debate one another?
If you discuss political matters with appropriate depth and honesty in a large group of people you will likely discover some political diversity. Even in a Liberal Jewish community that skews heavily towards the Democratic party, some teens have family members and friends who are more socially or economically Conservative, some teens have become more liberal than their parents, and some teens have been influenced by Youtubers and others who have ideas that do not fall neatly into a Left-Right binary and some may support Trump (23% of Jews who voted did.) If your teens start to challenge or debate one another, you should be prepared to facilitate the conversation in a way that protects all members of the group, especially those expressing minority opinions. This means you may need to provide support for someone whose opinions you do not agree with. One way to do so is to acknowledge that it is good to have a diversity of opinion in a group and then to say “Can someone raise questions about what was just said without criticizing the person who said it?” If you think it would be too difficult for you to play this role, the responsible plan of action is to steer clear of hosting a political conversation right now.
3. What, if anything, do you want to say about your own experiences, feelings, concerns, during the election to the teens in your group?
It could be that the teens in the group that you lead do not want to talk about the election, but you feel passionately that you have something that you need to share with them about your experience of the past week. If this is the case, think about how to share your personal experience without requiring them to empathize with your political position or agree with you. Share your experience as a story of self-reflection and learning about your connection to politics, not as a story that is looking for confirmation from others to affirm your position. If possible, be specific about an issue that you are concerned about and how uncertainty around that issue impacted you or your loved ones and make it clear that for other people there were other issues that might have impacted them.
A Note about Trauma:
While many teens (and adults) are experiencing elevated stress right now due to the political turmoil and election, for some, the lead up to the election and its aftermath may be traumatic and may be heightening or triggering their trauma response (for any variety of reasons). For those teens, creating mindful space to discuss/process the election may provoke more stress. As a group leader, it is important to make decisions knowing that what might be really helpful and calming for one teen might be counterproductive for another. Thus, gauging and checking the temperature of the teens and where they are at, as well as offering anyone who wants it, the opportunity to opt out of a mindfulness practice, is important. (See this article for more on trauma sensitivity and mindfulness ).
Finally, we thank you for caring as much as you do. Take good care of yourself this weekend. Show up in whatever ways you need to for yourself and then show up for your groups. And please, if you can, drop us a note to let us know what you tried, what your learned, how it went. You are not alone!
Daniel, Alisha, Jen and Tamara