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A mother having a serious talk with her daughter

Talking to Kids about Violence

We are living in an uncertain world. We only need to scroll through social media, listen to the news, or have a conversation with a friend or colleague, and we will likely learn of something unsettling that’s happening. With the growing reality of war, mass violence, and gun violence, it may seem like a daunting task to provide our children and students with answers. While we may not have all the answers, it is our responsibility as parents and educators to help our children and students feel a sense of safety and security and to provide some reassurance as they explore their own fears or concerns.

Talking to our children and students when something scary happens is a first step to help them organize their thoughts and share their feelings and fears. When a caring adult is there to offer comfort, connection, and coping, children naturally move toward resilience. Resilience is the ability to experience adversity and to learn and grow from it.

Here are some ways to help:

  • Remind children that you and other adults are committed to keeping them safe. Ask them for examples of adult helpers, such as a resource officer, a security guard, a police officer, or a firefighter.
  • Provide them with examples of safety protocols (ie. safety drills) that are in place and review them as needed.
  • Validate their feelings and let them know whatever they are feeling is okay.
  • Make time for conversations and let your child or student take the lead. Children are unique. Some children want to talk frequently while others process their concerns quietly and may need more time.

  • Correct any misconceptions and give age-appropriate information:
    • Early elementary children need simple and concrete information, like what safety procedures are in place and who is there to protect them.
    • Children in middle school are likely to ask questions and question answers. Be patient and consistent in acknowledging their input and ask them to share some ideas of things they could do to contribute. Reassure them that they are not in this alone and that all the adults involved in their care are committed to keeping them safe.
    • Many older middle school students and high school students have strong opinions about the causes of violence and ways to prevent tragedies. Other students may seem detached or desensitized to violence. All students need support in finding their voice and developing a balanced sense of efficacy in responding to violent events.
    • Limit exposure to media that focuses on a tragedy, hateful speech, or angry comments.
  • Pay attention to behavior and emotional cues that show your child or student is struggling. Changes in academics, focus, appetite, and sleep can all be indicators that they need additional attention. Sometimes professional support is necessary.
  • As much as possible, provide consistent routines and regular healthy meals. Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for movement. Children need to move their bodies every day, in every direction.
  • Help your child think of ways they can contribute to safety preparedness and helping others who have experienced violence. They can write a letter or make a card for someone who has experienced loss due to violence.

Reference for this article and more information can be found at this link.

About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.