Five ways to talk to your kids about violence.
Acknowledge with your children that it’s okay to have big feelings.
“Sometimes grown-ups get upset too and that’s okay! What’s important about having big feelings is what we do with them and hitting is not ok. When you have big feelings, what can you do to help yourself feel better?”
Give real-time examples of how to deal with those big feelings.
Don’t isolate children when they’re having big feelings. This leaves them without someone to help process their emotions – this is a skill kids have to learn, not a skill they are born with! Instead, walk them through various calming techniques like deep breathing, counting out loud, or simply sit and let them cry as you hold their hand and provide comfort. Lashing out or yelling will only make those big feelings bigger, it’s escalating! Also, recognize when it is that you’re having big feelings and need a moment to calm down. Use this time to model the behavior for your kids.
“I’m having some big feelings right now. I’m feeling very frustrated and sad, so I’m going to sit quietly for a few minutes by myself.”
Children are exposed to various forms of violence, whether it be from cartoons, movies, books, TV shows and the internet.
As adults, we need to help children make sense of contradictory messages like, “It’s not okay to hit your friends!” and then watch cartoon characters hit each other.
“Movies are make believe and in cartoons, sometimes characters hit each other and it doesn’t hurt. That’s not true in real life. If you hit your friend or sibling, they’re going to be hurt, it may leave a mark, and their feelings will be hurt, too.”
Help your child identify what makes them feel safe.
“Where do you feel safe? What makes you feel safe? Who do you see as safe people in your life?
It is important to reinforce where, who and what makes children feel safe from their own perspective, in an unsafe situation, this will be their instinct! From here, we can also help direct them to other outlets in times when they feel unsafe.
“If you ever feel unsafe, know that you can share your feelings with us and we’ll help you.”
“If you see someone hurt, see something unsafe happening or are hurt by someone, it is safe tell someone, like a teacher, a parent, or a grandparent.”
Meet your child where they are.
Reinforcing good choices and ways to work through big feelings is an on-going process, no matter how old your child is. By meeting your child where they are, and not where you want them to be, you’re having age appropriate conversations regarding their feelings and how to process them.
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