Talking to kids about violence can be tricky. 

Our world challenges you every day with issues in the news which can be disturbing or difficult for children to understand and for parents to explain. But we must educate them, or we miss a critical opportunity in their early development.

According to recent research, children between the ages of 8 to 12, want their parents to talk to them about today’s toughest issues, even those that include disturbing topics such as violence. Although it’s essential to begin discussing violence at an early age, adolescents also need to be able to openly talk about violence with you. So, continue having these conversations well into their teen years.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, violence can be rampant and cause our children to feel unsafe and frightened. Violence is all over the media, at school and even in our neighborhoods. Kids are having to learn how to cope with these issues at an earlier age than ever before. This often means they may not be ready to hear about violence in today’s society, and may not understand why it occurs. 

In this article, we will cover how parents and other caring adults can talk with their children about violence in the media, at school and online, and how they can develop open communication with their child regarding difficult conversations. 


Kids and the Impact of Violence

online violenceEven in these complicated media-driven times, we as parents have the ability to raise confident, secure and healthy kids who know how to properly resolve conflict and deal with violence they see all around them. It is your responsibility to openly converse with your children regarding violence, help them learn how to peacefully make decisions and cope with it. Instill healthy coping tactics by offering consistent, reliable, and accurate information surrounding difficult issues with your children. Always be open to answering their questions and concerns. Let’s talk about some helpful tips on starting these conversations.


Develop Open Communication

It is important that you talk with your kids openly and honestly. 

Always encourage questions, and respond with positive and supportive answers. Reinforce their safety and build their confidence up. Your kids need to know that they can ask you anything, and you will respond with an open mind, judgement-free. Always answer inquiries with straight-forward answers, otherwise your child may come to their own irrational conclusions to their questions – often leading to unnecessary fearful thoughts. 

Parents need to remember to remain humble, and admit when they do not know the answer to certain questions. Use opportunities daily to discuss any and all topics your child needs to grasp in order to grow into a mature and productive member of society. By doing so, they will be better equipped to handle life as an adult.


Encourage Children to Share Honest Feelings

Children and adults alike, tend to feel better when they talk about their feelings. Sharing honest feelings not only allows us to experience an emotional release, but also confirms the fact that we don’t have to face our fears alone. As a parent or guardian, you need to keep an eye out for signs that a violent event has upset your child. Approach the conversation by saying something along the lines of, “That story in the news seemed pretty frightening to me. How did hearing about it make you feel?”. Once you’ve asked a relatable question, see where the conversation naturally flows. Allow your child to lead the conversation. If they appear to be depressed for a long period of time, even after you’ve explained the situation to them and addressed their concerns and fears, you may need to do more to express your love to them. Assure them that you’re there to protect them, and you love them endlessly.


Control the Media and Access Children Have

It’s a fact: Experts have concluded that viewing excessive amounts of violence in the media can lead to devastating consequences for children.

The truth is, often times, they aren’t mature enough to handle the level of violence in the media, but are being exposed to it anyways. Studies have also shown that children who watch too much violence on TV, in movies, or while playing video games can cause that child to become desensitized to violence, possible leading them to act out more aggressively themselves. Pay attention to the kinds of media you allow your child to view, and control their access to inappropriate websites, etc. Encourage your children to spend more time doing hobbies, sports and activities they enjoy outside of using social media and TV. Teach them why it is so important to avoid overuse of internet devices and spending excessive amounts of time reading and viewing violent content.  

How to Reduce Negative Effects of Violent Messages

  • Continue to monitor your child’s access to media and violence.
  • Set rules regarding what TV shows and video games can be watched/played within your home.
  • Only choose to watch movies in your home that are age appropriate for the children who live there. 
  • Enforce rules for internet use and discuss what is, and isn’t, appropriate for your child to view online. Show them fun websites where they can play wholesome games, etc.
  • Consider using monitoring programs and tools for TV and the Internet, which help you control what your child sees by blocking TV programs they consider to be inappropriate. 
  • Review rating systems that provide parents with information regarding the content within a TV program or movie.


Q&A: Talking to Kids About Violence

Q: What do I do if kids at school bully me?

A: Bullies usually feel badly about themselves, and that’s why they pick 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.

Q: What do I do if I see someone bring a weapon to school?

A: If you ever see a gun anywhere, never touch it. It is important that you tell an adult-like your teacher, right away. That way, you’ll stay safe and help make sure no one else gets hurt.