How to Help Children Cope with Exposure to Violence
In recent news, there has been a lot of coverage on violence like the shootings in Dallas and even more recently, the mother who posted a facebook video beating her daughter. Exposure to violence has saturated news outlets and social media, prompting the question: “How as a parent can I help my children cope with exposure to violence?”
With the escalating violence, I wanted to explore this question further by sharing useful strategies parents can rely on when it comes to helping children understand violent events.
TIPS FOR TALKING:
Ask them, don’t just tell them.
Talking to your children about exposure to violence should be in the form of a conversation. They should feel that you’re including them in the discussion. You can do this by asking questions such as, “What do you think about what happened?” Or “How do you feel about what happened?”
Asking questions encourages children towards independent thinking so that they can judge for themselves what is going on in their environment. It will also give you great insight into their thinking and help further educate them on topics such as safety, community and politics.
Maturity level and age are important.
These two metrics are important in deciding how to discuss recent violent events with your children. If they are younger or less mature, you may want to just have a discussion without videos on social media or other potentially graphic depictions. Older and more mature children may allow you to talk about what videos might be out there or what they may have seen themselves on the internet, social media or TV.
Tragedy is always sad, but not always traumatic.
Different people react to events differently. While one child witnessing violence may be traumatized, another may not. Take a child’s sensitivity level when deciding whether to watch videos or talk about certain topics. If you think your child is going to have an extreme adverse reaction to something, trust your gut and figure out a toned down way to engage your child.
Know If they see it, talk about it.
If your child has already been exposed to violence on social media or the news that they want to talk about, don’t shy away from it. Not talking about it in hopes that it will shelter them from pain or discomfort is going to be counterproductive. Instead, if they see something, make sure you engage them in a discussion that helps them make sense of their world and what’s going on around them.
Learning moment for empathy.
Anytime something tragic happens there is a teaching moment. With these types of situations, you may help your child understand how others are feeling at this time. Maybe you discuss reactions from the community, family members, or other groups and individuals. Encouraging a child to think about how others may have been impacted by a violent event can help nurture a sense of empathy. This will be invaluable for them as they deal with conflict resolution in their lives.
I’d like to end on advice that one of my heroes got from his mother. The famed Mr. Rogers used to say that when he was a boy and would see scary things in the news, his mother would tell him to look for the helpers. You will always find the people who are helping. I’m glad he shared this with our world because I agree. It’s always important to look for and grow the love in our world instead of focusing on fear and hate.
Fox28 raised this question to our local community in regard to corporal punishment. I had some things to say in the story which you can watch here:
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help you!