Keeping Kids Safe: Tips for Raising Good Kids in a Violent World

By: Gene Roehlkepartain, Guest Blogger

Being a victim or perpetrator of violence, harassment, or bullying is a serious issue, with lasting negative effects on the lives of children and teens. When young people experience violence, they face more physical and mental health challenges as well as problems in school. They are also at greater risk of using violence themselves. Parents can play important roles in preventing or reducing these risks for their children. Consider these ideas:

  • Remember that safety begins at home. Perhaps the most important thing parents can do to protect against violence is to ensure that their home is physically and emotionally safe for all family members at all times. Unfortunately, home can be an unsafe place for children and youth if there is verbal or physical abuse, violence or other unsafe conditions. If any of these issues are concerns in your family, seek help from a trusted professional in your community or contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE or www.thehotline.org.
  • Intervene if you suspect violence, bullying, or harassment. If the incidents are happening in school, talk with a teacher, counselor, or administrator. Problem-solve together. In some cases, it may be appropriate to talk with the perpetrator’s parent. If there is violence or hostility in your neighborhood, consider talking with the police or neighbors about it. In some cases, neighbors have organized so that adults are walking around the neighborhood or waiting at bus stops at high-risk times. Having responsible people around can help to thwart violence, bullying, and harassment.
  • [Related: Is It Bullying? Learn how to identify bullying.]

  • Build strengths in and around your child. Research shows that young people are much less likely to get involved in bullying and violence when they have important strengths, known as developmental assets, in their lives. These protective strengths include positive peer influence, school engagement, restraint, peaceful conflict resolution, and safety at home, at school, and in the neighborhood. As a parent, you can focus on building these strengths with and for your child, increasing the likelihood that she or he will avoid being a victim or perpetrator of violence.
  • Support, love, and comfort your child. If teens have been victims of violence, harassment, or bullying, focus first on comforting them, no matter how upset you may be. It is vital that they know they are not at fault for what is happened, and that they know you love them and will do what you can to keep them safe.
  • Recognize when actions are discriminatory. Civil rights laws forbid peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, gender, or disability, and state laws may protect other groups of people as well. If young people bully or harass an individual because of any of these characteristics, they could face particularly serious consequences, particularly if the violation occurs in schools, which are mandated to enforce civil rights laws. (For more information, visit www.stopbullying.gov.)
  • Talk with your child. Bring up the issue. Does your child see bullying, harassment, or violence at school or in the neighborhood? Who does he or she see either being a bully or being bullied? How safe (or unsafe) does he or she feel in all the different places he or she spends time?
  • Use music, movies, and other media to trigger conversations. Violence and bullying are too often in the news and on the media. When bad things occur, use the opportunity to prompt a conversation. Ask your child what he or she thinks of the situation. Ask: Does it seem far-fetched or close to home? How well did those involved respond to the situation? How might you respond in that situation.
  • Talk about the allure of violence in the media. If your child is exposed to media violence (by choice or accidentally), talk about it. Ask: Why do people enjoy playing violent video games? What is it about violence that makes movie and TV producers regularly include it in entertainment?
  • [Related Article: Online Safety]

    [Related Article: Video Game Safety]

  • Explore attitudes about people who are different from you. How does your child think about people in school who may be different from her or him? How do you learn to interact respectfully with people who are different?
  • [Related Article: Tips for Raising Culturally-Aware Kids]

    Violence and bullying can be reduced when people work together to create safe places for all young people. As a parent, you have a particular stake in the safety of your child, so joining these efforts can make a big difference. In addition, your child will see how important the issue is to you, and he or she will also learn from you about the importance of getting involved to make your neighborhood, school, and community better places.

    Eugene C. Roehlkepartain is Vice President of Research and Development at Search Institute, and creator of the 9 Parenting Strategies. Roehlkepartain is widely recognized as an expert in child, youth, and family development in community contexts. Particular areas of interest include family strengths, community supports for families and youth, spiritual development, service-learning, youth philanthropy, and linking youth development with financial literacy. Learn more about the 9 Parenting Strategies here.

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    I totally agree with each idea mentioned. A parent-child relationship that includes open communication is critical to helping a child feel safe and secure. Your suggestion, if any abuse or violence occurs in the family, a child should seek help from a responsible adult or use the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, is imperative to reduce violence in our society.

    For complimentary, related articles, “Educator’s Guide to Bullying,” “Assertiveness Training for Children,” “Aggressive Girls, and “Cliques and “Put-Downs in Elementary School,” click below:
    http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherTips.html

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