Talking with Kids About Violence

Violence is everywhere and it seems that in spite of our efforts: prayer, education, and taking a public stand against it, the violence just keeps increasing. Like many of you, I was glued to the TV during the Ferguson disaster. People are killed all the time but this felt so different. I think what kept me watching in horror and keeps me praying was the sight of the teenager's body lying in the street for all those hours for all in the community, across America, and ultimately, the world to see. I don't know if it hit you like it did me, but as I was watching, my mind immediately went to the children in that community; what was going through their minds? How were they feeling? How would they possibly come to know peace and security with things like this happening in front of them?

Tears then followed as I prayed for them, the mother of the teen, the community of Ferguson, the policeman who shot the teen, the police who have to protect and keep order, the streets of New Haven, my community. Then my thoughts went back to Sandy Hook, those children had to see dead bodies as well. How are they doing now? I thought of my grandchildren because school was starting; what should we be telling the girls that will help them to increase their awareness of what is going on around them without scaring them to death? How can we, the Church, help parents to teach their children to live in peace? We (ABCCONN) have produced our statement against violence, we have met and continue to meet to discuss what we can do to help to stem the rising tide of violence across our communities and this nation, but what do we do first? There are so many issues concerning violence it is hard to know where to begin.

This all led me to do some research on the internet. The following article from Children Now* helped me, and I thought it might help others. It is longer than our usual insert, and because of this I have edited it. At the end of this insert you will find the link to the full article, which I hope you will share with the parents in your congregation.

Joyce Blandon, Chair of the Department of Educational Ministries

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues:

Violence

... Violence in today's world, in the media, in our neighborhoods and even in our schools can make our children feel frightened, unsafe and insecure. 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... Here are some tips on getting started.

DEVELOP OPEN COMMUNICATION: 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...If you don't know the answer, admit itthen find the correct information and explore it together. Use everyday opportunities to talk as occasions for discussion.... So talk, talk and talk again.

ENCOURAGE 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...And if he has been violent or a victim of violence, it is critical to give him a safe place to express his feelings.

MONITOR THE MEDIA: ...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 violencewhether on TV, in the movies, or in video gamescan increase the chance that children will be desensitized to violence, or even act more aggressively themselves. ..Encourage your children to think about what they are watching, listening to or playing; how would they handle situations differently?

ACKNOWLEDGE 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.... By providing consistent support and an accepting environment, you can help reduce children's anxieties and fears.

TAKE A STAND: 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)."... 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."

CONTROL 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....

SET 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, and 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.

HOLD FAMILY MEETINGS: Regularly scheduled family meetings can provide childrenand 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 problemsolving and negotiation skills. Keep the meetings lively, but well controlled, so children learn that conflicts can be settled creatively and without violence....

TALK 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....

To read this article in full, go to: https://www.childrennow.org/parenting-resources/violence/

*Children Now is the leading, nonpartisan, umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children's health and education in California and creating national media policies that support child development. The organization also leads The Children's Movement of California.

© 2014 Children Now. All Rights Reserved.

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