aising a child is one
of the most gratifying jobs you'll ever have and one of
the toughest. Try as you might to be the best parent you
can, our complex world challenges you every day with disturbing
issues that are difficult for children to understand and
for parents to explain. But explain we must, or we miss
a critical opportunity. Research shows that children, especially
those between the ages of 8 and 12, want their parents to
talk with them about today's toughest issues, including
violence. Even when they reach adolescence, they want to
have a caring adult in their lives to talk about these issues.
In fact, those who have early conversations are more likely
to continue turning to their parents as they become teens.
in today's world in the media, in our neighborhoods and
even in our schools can make our children feel frightened,
unsafe and insecure. Kids are hearing about and often must
cope with tough issues such as violence at increasingly
earlier ages, often before they are ready to understand
all the aspects of complicated situations. Yet, there is
hope. Parents and other caring adults have a unique opportunity
to talk with their children about these issues first, before
everyone else does.
in such complex times, parents have the ability to raise
healthy, confident, secure children who know how to resolve
conflicts peacefully and make smart decisions to protect
themselves. Parents should talk with their children to help
them learn correct information and to impart the values
they want to instill. Parents should also be a consistent,
reliable, knowledgeable source of information. Here are
some tips on getting started.
It is important that you talk with your kids openly and
honestly. Use encouragement, support and positive reinforcement
so your kids know that they can ask any question-on any
topic-freely and without fear of consequence. Provide
straightforward answers; otherwise, your child may make
up her own explanations that can he more frightening than
any honest response you could offer. If you don't know
the answer, admit it-then find the correct information
and explore it together. Use everyday opportunities to
talk as occasions for discussion. Some of the best talks
you'll have with your child will take place when you least
expect them. And remember that it often takes more than
a single talk for children to grasp all they need to know.
So talk, talk and talk again.
them to talk it out.
Children feel better when they talk about their feelings.
It lifts the burden of having to face their fears alone
and offers an emotional release. If you sense that a violent
event (whether real or fictional) has upset your youngster,
you might say something like, "That TV program we
saw seemed pretty scary to me. What did you think about
it?" and see where the conversation leads. If your
child appears constantly depressed, angry or feels persecuted,
it is especially important to reassure him that you love him and encourage him to talk about his
concerns. And if he has been violent or a victim of violence,
it is critical to give him a safe place to express his
Over the years, many experts have concluded that viewing
a lot of violence in the media can be risky for children.
Studies have shown that watching too much violence-whether
on TV, in the movies, or in video games-can increase the
chance that children will be desensitized to violence,
or even act more aggressively themselves. Pay special
attention to the kinds of media your children play with
or watch. Parental advisories for music, movies, TV, video
and computer games can help you choose age-appropriate
media for your children. Try watching TV or playing video
games with your children and talk with them about the
things you see together. Encourage your children to think
about what they are watching, listening to or playing-how
would they handle situations differently? Let them know
why violent movies or games disturb you. For example,
you might tell your nine-year-old, "Violence just
isn't funny to me. In real life people who get shot have
families and children, and it's sad when something bad
happens to them." Watching the news and other media
with your child enables you to discuss current events
like war and other conflicts, and can provide an opportunity
to reinforce the consequences of violence.
and other caring adults can help tone down the effects
of these violent messages. Here's how:
Actively supervise your child's exposure to all
forms of media violence.
Limit TV viewing to those programs you feel are
Be selective about which movies your child sees
and which video and computer game he plays.
Establish rules about the Internet by going on-line
together to choose sites that are appropriate and fun
for your child.
Consider using monitoring tools for TV and the Internet,
like the v-chip, a new technology that allows parents
to block TV programs they consider inappropriate.
Take advantage of the ratings system that provides
parents with information about the content of a TV program
your children's fears and reassure them of their safety
Children who experience or witness violence, as well as
those who have only seen violent acts on TV or in the
movies, often become anxious and fearful. That's why it's
important to reassure a child that their personal world
can remain safe. Try saying something like this to your
7 or 8-year-old: "I know that you are afraid. I will
do my very best to make sure you are safe." The recent
school tragedies in Colorado and in Georgia have shown
that violence can not only frighten children but can make
them feel guilty for not preventing it. By providing consistent
support and an accepting environment, you can help reduce
children's anxieties and fears.
Parents need to be clear and consistent about the values
they want to instill. Don't cave in to your children's
assertion that "everybody else does it (or has seen
it)" when it comes to allowing them to play what
you view as an excessively violent game or to watch an
inappropriate movie. You have a right and responsibility
to say, "I don't like the message that game sends.
I know that you play that game at your friend's house,
but I don't want it played in our house."
your own behavior
When it comes to learning how to behave, children often
follow their parents' lead, which is why it is important
to examine how you approach conflict. Do you use violence
to settle arguments? When you're angry, do you yell or
use physical force? If you want your child to avoid violence,
model the right behavior for her.
limits regarding children's actions towards others
Let your child know that teasing can become bullying and
roughhousing can get out of control. If you see your child
strike another, impose a "time out" in order
for him to calm down, then ask him to explain why he hit
the child. Tell him firmly that hitting is not allowed
and help him figure out a peaceful way to settle the problem.
Regularly scheduled family meetings can provide children-and
us- with an acceptable place to talk about complaints
and share opinions. Just be sure that everyone gets a
chance to speak. Use these meetings to demonstrate effective
problem-solving and negotiation skills. Keep the meetings
lively, but well controlled, so children learn that conflicts
can be settled creatively and without violence.
strict rules about weapons
Teach your child that real guns and knives are very dangerous
and that they can hurt and kill people. You might say,
"I know in the cartoons you watch and the video and
computer games you play, the characters are always shooting
each other. They never get hurt; they just pop up again
later like nothing ever happened. But in real life, someone
who gets shot will be seriously hurt; sometimes they even
about gangs and cliques
Gangs and cliques are often a result of young people looking
for support and belonging. However, they can become dangerous
when acceptance depends upon negative or antisocial behavior.
If you believe your child might be exposed or attracted
to a gang, talk about it together. Look for an opportunity-say
you see an ad for a movie that makes gang life seem glamorous-and
say, "You know, sometimes it seems like joining a
gang might be cool. But it's not. Kids in gangs get hurt.
Some even get killed because they try to solve their problems
through violence. Really smart kids choose friends who
are fun to be with and won't put them in any danger."
Many communities have programs that help prevent gang
with other parents
Help give your kids a consistent anti-violence message
by speaking with the parents of your kids' friends about
what your children can and cannot view or play in your
homes. Ask other parents if there's a gun in their home.
If there is, talk with them to make sure they've taken
the necessary safety measures. Having this kind of conversation
may seem uncomfortable, but keep in mind that nearly 40
percent of accidental handgun shootings of children under
16 occur in the homes of friends and relatives.
particular attention to boys
Most boys love action. But action need not become violence.
Parents must distinguish between the two and help their
boys do so as well. Allow them safe and healthy outlets
for their natural energy. And recognize that talking-especially
about violence-is different for boys than for girls. Boys
may feel ashamed to express their real feelings about
violence. Instead of sitting down for a " talk,"
initiate the topic while the two of you are engaged in
an activity he enjoys. Provide privacy for these conversations.
And be ready to listen when he's ready to talk, even if
the timing isn't ideal. (Pollack, Real Boys, 1998.)
the schools to get involved
Find out about your school's violence prevention efforts.
Encourage the teaching of conflict-resolution skills and
"peer mediation" programs (where children counsel
other children). Suggest training teachers in de-escalating
and preventing violence.
additional support and information
We hope you have found this information helpful. If you
still want more information, contact any of these organizations
listed or go to the library or bookstore and check out
these books for parents. There are lots of people you
can talk with like doctors, teachers, members of the clergy
or other parents.
do I do if a kid at school is picking on me?
A bully usually feels badly about himself and that's why
he picks on people. I know you want to stand up to him,
but try hard not to get mad or let him provoke
you. If you feel like you can handle it, try to stand tall
and say, "I'm not going to fight with you." But
remember, you don't have to handle it on your own. I'm there
for you and if you need me to talk with your teacher or
principal, I will.
do I do if I see someone bring a gun to school?
If you ever see a gun anywhere, never touch it. It is important
that you tell an adult-like your teacher or us, right away.
That way, you'll stay safe and help make sure no one else