There exist issues in the world
that are complex and disturbing to your teen - and you will have
to deal with these. It is important to explain what it is our
teens are seeing on TV and in their own neighborhood. It has been
seen that children as young as 8 would like to talk to their parents
about issues such as 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. 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 order to raise healthy and happy
kids parents need to impart the correct information and values
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.
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.
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. 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 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 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
Parents 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
* Limit TV viewing to those programs you feel are appropriate.
* 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 or movie.
Acknowledge your children's fears and reassure them of
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.
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)"
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."
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. 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.
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, 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 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.
Convey 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 die."
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. 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 violence.
Talk 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
Pay 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,
Ask 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.
Get 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
Opening Up & Talking