Violence, particularly racially-motivated incidents, is a topic that parents sometimes feel uncomfortable discussing with their children. It is, however, necessary. The recent event in Charlottesville has compelled parents to discuss the issue of violence with their children. Here are tips on managing the discussion for parents:
1. Know what’s going on.
Treat factual elements as facts and do not influence the child’s reaction with your opinions. To manage the conversation better, read about the incident and listen to the news to obtain a more objective perspective. If necessary, discuss the issue with other parents as well. Sharing your views with fellow adults can help you develop a clearer view of the problem.
2. Understand the context of the event from a historical point of view.
Older kids need to be reminded of the events that have shaped and continue to shape the country. Tell them that change is often uncomfortable but it also presents an opportunity for Americans to progress as a nation and as a people. Provide them with an open and non-judgmental environment within which to discuss their thoughts, opinions and apprehensions.
3. Be honest about your personal limitations.
The events that occurred in Charlottesville have forced parents to take stock of their own personal biases and prejudices. This puts pressure on parents to say the right thing. While the intention is good, it may not always be effective in starting a conversation with your children, especially about an issue that may affect them sooner or later. Keep the conversation going, but do not use it as an opportunity to lecture or drive down a moral lesson. Make it part of the larger conversation to raise awareness in your children about the issues that American society still faces.
4. Guide children in choosing reliable news sources.
Children, particularly older teens and those who might have access to the Internet, are likely to use and rely on social media for a look at current events. Unfortunately, not every post, blog or article they read can be considered reliable or trustworthy. Acknowledge that social media can be a powerful tool for information but remind your children that even factual news can be manipulated to promote personal objectives. Teach your kids to find three to five different sources of news to view different perspectives, and to avoid write-ups that are spread through social media alone. Remind them that they will have a better view of the events if they verify information.
5. Always offer support and assurance.
Troubling events can cause children to develop a negative or cynical view. This is usually borne of fear, uncertainty and confusion. Remember to start the conversation only in an atmosphere of trust and openness, and allow the kids to talk about their feelings. When children know their opinions are valued, they are more likely to share. Always assure children that they can always rely on you for support, guidance and protection.
6. Keep yourself informed.
Changes in the political and cultural landscapes can leave certain sectors of society disoriented and unhappy. This is often the root of turbulence and unrest. The best way for parents to help children cope with these changes is to be informed and to maintain an objective perspective of the events. Seeing their world from a larger perspective will help children develop a deeper understanding of the bigger roles they play as members of the society.