Talking to your Children about Violence: 10 suggestions
By: Mr. Habeeb Quadri
In the last few months, we have been horrified by such tragic mass shootings in the country. These circumstances have been extremely worrying and stressful for us adults, as well as causing anxieties and fears among our children.
I would like to share some tips for parents to help their children process these events. Most of these tips have been provided from The National Association of School Psychologists.
Encourage your children to share their concerns and listen to them. It is a good thing when they express themselves and have a safe space to discuss their thoughts, worries, and fears.
2. Reaffirm Safety
Emphasize that schools, parks, public places etc.. are generally safe spaces. Let children speak about their feelings and validate all reactions to the event. Support the appropriate expression of their feelings and help to put them in perspective.
Review safety procedures as well. Help children identify one adult at school (i.e. teacher, administrator) and in the community that they can go to if they feel threatened or at risk. Review procedures and safeguards in school and home settings.
3. Make Time to Talk
Let children’s questions guide the information provided. Be patient and look for clues that a child wants to talk. Young children may need concrete activities (e.g., imaginative play) and some older children may prefer writing or making art.
4. Keep Explanations Developmentally Accurate
Some children might not have heard of these events, but if they have you can keep it simple. Provide simple information balanced by assurance of safety.
Upper Elementary & Early Middle
Many students hear about these events from their friends or social media. Sometimes the information obtained this way can be incorrect, so try to answer questions and assist in separating reality from fantasy.
Upper Middle & High School
Emphasize a student’s role in safety & how they can access support. Let them know it’s okay to report any threats, and who to go to (parents, school authority). It’s also important to know which group chats they are active in. More importantly, how to properly express their frustrations and emotions in a proper, legal and proactive way.
5..Limit Online Screen-time/TV Exposure
Limit television and social media. Be aware of how much time they spend reading about these tragedies for less psychological effects. While it’s good to be aware, limitations are sometimes necessary. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood. Violent shows and games, especially at a young age, can sometimes develop aggressive behavior in children and young adults.
6..Observe Children’s Emotional State
All people cope in different ways when it comes to processing tragedy. Children especially will have their own ways of coping. Some will not express themselves verbally but changes in behavior, appetite or sleep patterns can indicate anxiety or stress. Seek help from a mental health professional for those with more intense reactions.
7. Make a Normal Routine
Keep a regular schedule to assure and promote physical and mental health. Encourage maintenance of schoolwork and extracurricular activities but do not push children if they seem overwhelmed.
8. Channel Positive Thinking
We should express to our children that it will be okay and remind them that there is a system for checks and balances. Remain positive with a “glass half full” mentality by thinking of how many people there are who want to change the world for the better and are working hard to make sure things like this don’t continue happening.
9. Control your Emotions
As difficult as it can be to maintain composure at times, we need to control our emotions and our language in front of our children. It’s okay to show some frustration, but we should remain appropriate when dealing with our emotions in front of them. Children learn from their parents’ actions; they model their parents’ behavior. How you act will play a big role in your child’s perception of these events.
10. Remembering Allah (GOD) and Striving to Do Our Best
Lastly, we must remind our children how essential it is to strive to do our best to succeed in education, in practicing faith, and being a good person (working on our character). Daily dua habits are important. Getting in the habit of reading ayatul kursi everyday and duas(supplications) every morning It’s a good habit to read your duas when leaving your house, when driving, etc.
No matter what happens in the world, we should always continue to work hard to better ourselves and remind our children that we can be change agents to better our communities
Please pray for all of humanity for guidance, safety and peace.