How to Talk to Your Child About Violence in the News

By Alison Mays, MSW, LCSW

Violence is very present in the world today. It seems like it is everywhere… in our hometown,
our country and abroad. No matter how much we try to protect our children from horrific events,
they are becoming more and more aware about the world that we live in today. Violence, whether close
or far away from home can cause children to feel unsafe and frightened. It is important that parents
know what their kids are being exposed to in order to comfort them and reassure their safety.

After the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, school aged children and adolescents all
over the country began to feel anxious, worried and scared that it could happen to them. One child described
“waiting” for it to happen at her school. If your child is worried about safety at their school or anywhere
else, it is possible to ease those fears and reassure their safety. Remind children that you are there to
keep them safe and that is your #1 job. Identify other adults that are in charge of protecting them such
as police officers, principals, teachers and school resource officers. Reassuring your child’s safety provides
security in their world and reduces fear and anxiety.

Find out what your child knows. Don’t assume that your child has all of the information or has the
same understanding of an event that you do. Asking questions such as “What do you know?” “What do you
think about it?” “Have you heard anyone talking about it? What did they say about it?” It is possible your
child has limited understanding, depending on their age. Asking questions and finding out what your child
knows before discussing it, allows you to protect your child from information that they do not have already.
Talking with your child about the things that they see or hear that frightens or worries them supports healthy
communication and provides security.

It is usually a good idea to limit how much of the television and print news young children are exposed to. It
is a safe bet that most daily news outlets will report some act of violence during the day. Enabling parental
blocks on computers, phones, Playstations and anything that has internet connection prevents children from stumbling upon information that may make them feel unsafe or frightened.

As parents and caregivers, you have the ability to make your children feel secure in a world where terrible
things happen on a daily basis. Encourage your child to talk to you about their worries and fears and the comfort
that you give to them will make them feel safe and secure despite the current events of the world.

Alison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She received a Bachelor’s of Social Work degree from North Carolina photo (8)State University and a Masters of Social Work degree from Boston College. She has experience working with children, adolescents and their families in multiple settings. She currently has a private practice in Wilmington, North Carolina. You can reach Alison at alisonfergusonlcsw@gmail.com.

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