School violence has become a central concern for both students and parents.
In this day and age, parents find it necessary to have painful but important conversations with their children about this topic. For instance, talking about what to do if a violent incident occurs in their school and asking what their feelings and concerns are. Some parents wonder if they should buy their child a bullet-proof backpack.
As a parent, of course, you want to protect your child from even worrying about these things. But you also know that you need to talk to them about the issues, no matter how hard that may be for you.
So, what to do? How can you approach the subject? Consider some of these helpful tips for talking to your child about school violence.
Prepare for the Conversation
Before you even sit down with your child, do your homework and prepare for the conversation.
Ask what is being done at your child’s school to keep them safe. Have there been new procedures put in place? Don’t be afraid to call up the school and question them or attend a parent meeting that will be covering this topic.
Also, prepare yourself emotionally to have this discussion with your child. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind to talk.
Ensure a Distraction-Free Discussion
When you do sit down to talk, ensure that both of you are free from distractions. That means turning off the TV and cell phones. It’s important that both of you have each other’s complete attention.
This is important for two reasons:
- Your child will know you are taking this matter seriously and are genuinely interested in having this discussion.
- You will be able to put more attention and focus on both what they are saying and what they are not saying (body language). Otherwise, you might miss something important.
Listen to Your Child
When you do sit down to talk, actually listen to your child and hear what they have to say about the subject and their concerns.
Take a moment to absorb what they are saying before you respond back. Even if you think something is irrational, don’t make the mistake of reacting to it. Rather, let your child speak and be heard.
Once they are done, craft an appropriate response. For example, if your child says, “I’m never going to school again!” don’t react by saying, “That’s ridiculous, of course, you are!” Instead, ask more questions and go deeper.
Make the Discussions Age-Appropriate
Of course, you want to make these conversations age-appropriate. Obviously, it would not be appropriate or helpful to have grisly, detailed conversations about school violence with an 8-year old.
Regardless of age, though, work to empower your child so that they will feel more comfortable and safe at school. For example, ask them to review with you the safety procedures they have learned at school.
Also ask them what have they heard at school about school violence – from classmates, friends or through rumors.
Let Your Child Express Their Emotions
No matter how old they are, encourage your child to be open with expressing their emotions about this topic. Tell them it’s OK to feel upset, or even scared.
It’s important that they feel comfortable talking about their feelings with you. Otherwise, if they bottle-up their emotions they could come out in unhealthy ways, such as anxiety or even defiance.
Provide reassurance that you love them and care about them.
Consult with a Professional
Because talking about school violence is such a sensitive matter, it doesn’t hurt to consult with a mental health professional about how to approach the subject with your child.
Your school’s guidance counselor will be a good place to start, for example. You can either have a conversation with them and your child together or ask them for advice separately.
Another good resource is a professional therapist who can aide in processing emotions and teaching your child relaxation techniques if they are feeling stressed or unsafe. It also doesn’t hurt if you have someone like a therapist to talk to about your own concerns and fears.
There’s no shame in acknowledging that having a conversation about school violence with your child is not going to be easy or pleasant. However, it’s still an important discussion to have. Make good use of the above-mentioned tips and don’t be afraid to ask for help. After all, it’s vital that you know how to best support your child.
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