a child is one of the most gratifying jobs you'll ever have and one
of the toughest. Try as you might to be the best parent you can, our
complex world challenges you every day with disturbing issues that are
difficult for children to understand and for parents to explain. But
explain we must, or we miss a critical opportunity. Research shows that
children, especially those between the ages of 8 and 12, want their
parents to talk with them about today's toughest issues, including violence.
Even when they reach adolescence, they want to have a caring adult in
their lives to talk about these issues. In fact, those who have early
conversations are more likely to continue turning to their parents,
as they become teens.
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.
such complex times, parents have the ability to raise healthy, confident,
secure children who know how to resolve conflicts peacefully and make
smart decisions to protect themselves. Parents should talk with their
children to help them learn correct information and to impart the values
they want to instill. Parents should also be a consistent, reliable,
knowledgeable source of information. Here are some tips on getting started.
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 violence.
Parents and other caring adults can help tone down the effects of
these violent messages.
supervise your child's exposure to all forms of media violence.
TV viewing to those programs you feel are appropriate.
- Be selective
about which movies your child sees and which video and computer game
rules about the Internet by going on-line together to choose sites
that are appropriate and fun for your child.
using monitoring tools for TV and the Internet, like the v-chip, a
new technology that allows parents to block TV programs they consider
advantage of the ratings system that provides parents with information
about the content of a TV program or movie.
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. 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 cannot 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.