HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH VIOLENCE
violence often intrudes on the daily lives of young children both
in their homes and in out-of-home settings. As technology becomes
a greater presence in everyone's lives, children cannot help but
be exposed to more accounts of real-world violence, and parents
and caregivers cannot realistically expect to fully protect children
from reports of violence.
degree to which children are exposed to violence varies greatly,
as does the degree to which they are affected. Many children directly
experience violence in their own lives. The ideas children build
about the role of violence in human interactions come from all of
their exposures to it.
what the adult's role should be in helping children work through
the violence they are exposed to presents a big challenge. Most
of us would prefer to avoid dealing with disturbing issues in order
to protect children's innocence for as long as possible. But not
talking to children about the violence they hear about-or actually
see first-hand-denies them the opportunity to sort out what they
hear and figure out what it means.
Remote Control Childhood: Combating the Hazards of Media Culture,
author Diane E. Levin provides useful strategies for families,
caregivers, and educators for dealing with violence in the media,
the media environment, and supporting children's healthy development.
Following are some guidelines from the book to help children grapple
with real-world violence:
adults play a vital role in helping children sort out what they
have heard and need to figure out. Let children know it is okay
to raise these kinds of issues with you.
Don't expect young children to understand violence as adults do.
When working on these issues with a child, try to find out as
much as you can about what he/she knows and understands or is
struggling to understand. Base your response on what you find
children hear about some thing scary or disturbing, they sometimes
relate it to themselves and start to worry about their own safety.
Even when you can't make a situation better, reassure children
about their safety. For example, say, "That can't happen to you
because your parents always ..." This kind of reassurance is what
children most need to hear.
questions and clear up misconceptions, but don't try to give children
all the information available about a news story. The best guide
is to follow the child's lead, giving small pieces of information
at a time and seeing how the child responds before deciding what
to say next.
for opportunities to help children learn alternatives to the violence
they hear about on the news. One effective way is to point to
examples from the child's own experience. For instance, you might
say, "I get really upset when people solve their problems by hurting
each other. Remember when you got really angry at Sandy for _____?
You didn't hurt her. You told her _____." It is also important
to make positive conflict resolution a regular part of children's
and support young children's efforts to work out what they have
heard through play, drawing, and other activities. This, regardless
of anything else you do, can serve a very therapeutic role for
with permission from the
National Association for the Education of Young Children
1509 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-1426
Phone: 202-232-8777; 800-424-2460
of: Remote Control Childhood: Combating the Hazards of Media Culture
can be obtained from NAEYC, 1509 16th St., N.W., Washington, DC
20036-1426, Resource Sales (800-424-2460, ext. 604 or 202-232-8777,
ext. 604), Order #326/$8.00