Tips for Parents and Teachers: Talking to Children About Violence

In the past few years, whether intentionally or unintentionally, children are being exposed to more violence than ever before.

​Violence is a complicated topic to talk to kids about and even more challenging issue for your children to understand. When situations such as abuse, assault, mass shootings, terrorist attacks and more occur, children may feel in danger and worry about themselves, their friends and their loved ones who might be at risk.

Schools and parents can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of security and normalcy and talking to these kids about their fears and concerns. This guide will give you tips on how you can do your part in helping children cope with violence.

Talking about violence

Reassure Children That They Are Safe

Stress that schools are hardly dangerous. Let kids help place them into view, talk about their feelings, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

Make Time to Talk

Let their questions be your guide regarding how much info to supply. Be patient. Youth and kids don't regularly talk about their feelings readily. Look for hints they may need to discuss, while you do the dishes or lawn work like hovering around. Some kids prefer playing music, writing, or doing an art project to help them identify and express their feelings.

Keep Your Explanations Developmentally Appropriate

  • Early primary school children need brief, simple advice that will be balanced with assurances that adults are there to protect them and that their school and houses are safe. Give simple examples of school security like reminding children about exterior doors are usually locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about what will be done at their school and whether they are safe. Discuss attempts of community and school leaders to provide schools that are safe.
  • Upper middle school and high school students may have vigorous and varying views about what causes violence in society and schools. They'll share concrete suggestions about the best way to prevent tragedies in society and making the school safer. Highlight the role that they have in keeping schools safe by following school security guidelines (e.g. not supplying building accessibility to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting hazards to the school security made by students or community members, etc.), conveying any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and getting support for mental demands.

Review Safety Procedures

This should contain processes and safeguards at school and home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.

Observe Children’s Emotional State

Some kids may not express their concerns verbally. However, changes in sleep patterns, and behavior, appetite can signal a child’s level of nervousness or discomfort. With time and assurance, these symptoms will ease in many children. Some kids may be at an increased risk for more intense reactions. Children who've had a past traumatic experience or own loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek assistance from a mental health professional if you are at all worried.

Limit Television Viewing of These Events

Limit television viewing and be conscious if the television is on in common places. Developmentally incorrect information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young kids. Restrict their vulnerability to spiteful, hateful, and angry comments which may be, and adults also have to be mindful of the content of dialogues that they have in front of children, even teens misunderstood.

Maintain a Normal Routine

Keeping to a routine schedule promote physical health and can be reassuring. Ensure that child gets lots of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to match their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but do ’t push them if they appear overwhelmed.

Violence talk

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children about Violence

  • Sometimes people do awful things that hurt others. They may not be able to manage their wrath, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, physicians, faith leaders) work tough to get those folks help and keep them from damaging others. It's important for all of us to understand how to get help if we feel extremely upset or mad and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Schools are locations that are safe. School staff work with parents and public security suppliers (local authorities and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
  • Steer clear of firearms and other weapons. Tell an adult if you realize someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for violence that is deadly.
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to comprehend.
  • Don't dwell on the worst possibilities. Although there is absolutely no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it's important to comprehend the difference between the possibility of something happening and the chance that our school will be affected by it.
  • There exists a difference between tattling, reporting or gossiping. It is possible to supply significant information that could prevent harm either anonymously or directly by telling a trusted adult what you hear or understand.
  • The school building is not dangerous because … (cite specific school procedures). We all play a part in the school security. Be observant and let an adult know if you hear or see something which makes you feel frightened, nervous or uncomfortable.
  • Violence is never a solution to issues that are personal.


This article was inspired by the psychologist at National Association of School Psychologists

Gerard Wetzel

After seeing my brother and his family become victims of burglary, my attention and interests have shifted toward family safety, security and peace of mind.

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