The safety of our children, as caregivers, is something that is instinctual and yet, in moments of the unknown, extremely overwhelming. We want to use our mama bear instincts to do everything we can to protect our children from danger. We put plastic in our outlets and we tighten the car seat straps. When we finally send our child out into the world, our ability to protect them changes. As we see an increase of violence in our communities, tensions in our world and school violence at an uncomfortable high, having honest conversations with our children can prevent trauma and anxiety of the unknown- as well as create a proactive culture of open communication.
Tips for talking about safe environments:
When our little ones experience lockdown drills at school or hear about an act of violence, it can lead to anxiety and uncertainty. Helping your children process and identify emotions (i.e. fear, sadness, anger) is important. Letting kids know that we are here to keep them safe and that if they are ever feeling unsafe, they need to tell an adult gives them an action to take toward a solution. Sesame Street offers various resources for parents and create an engaging and proactive way to approach safety in a way that won’t scare your child.
Spend time learning about your child’s friends:
Being proactive about understanding our children means being more than a creepy social media stalker (although, experts do recommend monitoring your child’s social media). Learn about your child’s friends. When we already have already opened the channel of communication, if there is something more serious to report, the foundation has been laid to do so.
Don’t be afraid to seek external support:
Supporting your child’s mental health and ensuring that they have the resources that they need is critically important. If you think your child is at risk for depression or has experienced trauma or stress, reach out and talk with an expert about ways you can support. There are several programs to help. GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project) is a peer-run intervention program that works with youth who are at-risk of gang involvement or are currently in gangs, which is a huge proponent of violence amongst youth. AIM is a Denver Health run program that uses best practices from the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP), trauma-informed care and a public health approach that utilizes data and research to interrupt the cycle of violence among Denver’s at-risk youth and young adults. Faces for the Future, another Denver Health run program, is designed to specifically serve underrepresented youth who may be challenged with academic achievement or have significant social stressors.
There is no right or wrong way to talk to your child about gun violence. Ultimately, it is about starting the conversation and taking active steps as a parent to help keep them and others safe. Take these opportunities as a chance to learn and grow with your child, and together you can help end gun violence.