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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Ibelema, MD

Talking to Your Kids About Conflict + Violence: 8 Tips



kids sitting in grass field

In the wake of recent incidents of violence, in this country and abroad, many parents are grappling with the tough task of discussing these events with their children.This blog provides practical tips for parents on how to broach these difficult conversations while protecting a child's emotional well-being.




1. Choose the Right Moment


Find an appropriate time to talk to your child about violence in the media. Choose a moment when you both have the time and emotional bandwidth to engage in a meaningful conversation. This will allow you to be fully present and attentive.


As an adult, it's natural to experience anxiety when confronted with violent events. However, it's crucial to manage your feelings and not display excessive anxiety in front of your child. Keep adult discussions about the violence among adults and remain as composed as possible around your children.



2. Understand Their Perspective


In this age, we are all immersed in media sound bites from television and social media. Children are hearing about scary events and certain ideas even if you are bringing these idea into their awareness directly.


Before launching into the conversation, ask your child what they've seen or heard and how it made them feel. This will help you gauge their level of understanding and uncover any fears or misconceptions.



3. Allow them to talk openly.


Allow your child to talk openly about what happened. Let them express their thoughts and feelings about the violence that happened. When you avoid the subject, you convey to them that their thoughts and emotions are “unacceptable,” “bad,” or “wrong.” However, when you listen to them nonjudgmentally, you set them on a path to better mental health, both now and as they get older.


Whenever your child asks questions, thank them for asking, listen thoughtfully and encourage them to continue. Perhaps you don’t have the answers. If so, admit that you don’t know, but encourage them to ask anyway.



4. Keep Age in Mind


When talking to kids about violence, the best approach should be age-appropriate. Keep information simple and concise for the younger ones, as they might not relate to complex explanations. As children grow, their questions become more frequent, and their need for explanation may also grow.




5. Limit Media


Establish age-appropriate rules about media consumption. This might include limiting screen time or selecting content that aligns with your family's values. Explain your reasoning for these boundaries so that your child understands the intent behind them.




6. Reassure and Provide Comfort:


Children of all ages need reassurance that you and are taking precautions to keep them safe. Even if you think they already know, it may help to remind them that there are many people working to keep them safe.


Always reassure your child that they can come to you with any worries or questions. Let them know that you're there to provide support and comfort whenever they need it.



7. Monitor and Engage


Pay close attention to your child's cues, whether through their words, behavior, or what they avoid. Follow their lead. Adapt your approach to meet their specific emotional needs.


Be vigilant for signs of anxiety or avoidance in your child. If you observe such symptoms, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist.


8. Talk about values surrounding violence.


One of the mental health challenges for your child may be understanding why people do violent things. Talking about values related to violent acts can help them feel more grounded as they process these events.


Tailor your discussions to your child's age and level of understanding, emphasizing why violence is harmful and highlighting the helpers in such situations.



 

Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Every child is unique, and as a parent, you possess valuable insight into your child's individual needs. Trust your judgment and seek assistance from a medical professional or therapist if your child encounters difficulties in coping with these discussions. By using these guidelines, you can help your child navigate the challenging topic of violence and contribute to their emotional resilience.




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