Talking to Kids About Violence

Talking to Kids About Violence

Talking to Kids About Violence

Having tough talks with your child is necessary to help your child feel safe


Talking to kids about tough topics such as violence, racism, and death are never easy. But age appropriate talks are necessary to make sure your child feels safe.

Here are parenting tips on how to talk with your child about violence and other tough conversations.


How to talk to your child about violence


Step 1


Figure out your feelings first. It is okay to be upset and to let your child know you are upset. Talk with your child calmly about the events to give your child space to feel safe and ask questions.

If you get too emotional, take a break. Let your child know you are upset and are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings. Model how you can calm those feelings of overwhelm and emotion in a healthy way. This could be going for a walk, deep breathing,  journaling or asking for a hug.


Step 2


Let your child guide the conversation by asking questions.

Young kids may only hear snippets of what is going on or view images that are flashing on screens. Naturally, a child will try to form a story of what they see and hear to make sense of their world. When adults do not talk with young kids, they can make up something worse than what has happened. This can escalate a child’s feelings of fear and insecurity.

So take the time to ask your child what they think is going on and allow them to ask questions. It’s okay if you do not know all the answers. Correct any misinformation your child shares with you. And then be honest if you do not know something, but reassure them of their safety with you.

For older kids, talk about the importance of making sure information is correct. It can also help to talk about how to find good sources for information as well as what images are appropriate for them to view. Ask questions about what they have seen and ensure you talk about healthy mental health habits for limiting their exposure to upsetting topics and images.


Step 3


And don’t forget to talk about your child’s fears and feelings. This helps your child process their feelings and also allows you to know how impacted they may be by the event that has occurred. 

Validate their feelings and share your feelings as well. Normalizing your child’s feelings and modeling an openness of sharing feelings helps to promote resilience.


Step 4


Let your child know they can ask questions and share their feelings with you at any time.

It is rare that a big or disturbing event like violence is a one and done conversation. Your child may need a few conversations to fully process the event. So leaving an open invitation to talk or asking them later if they have any more questions can provide the outlet your child needs.


More tips for talking to kids


Help your child feel safe


As a parent you may feel ill equipped to talk about the violence that has occurred. But luckily most kids just want to know they are going to be safe.

So talk to your child about any safety plans that exist to help keep them safe. And if you don’t have a safety plan, use this as the time to create one with your child. Make sure they know who they can contact or go to during an emergency and how you will be reunited afterwards.

Keep an eye out for changes in behavior


Kids don’t often express in words when they feel stressed or that something is bothering them. Instead it comes out in the way they behave, play, sleep or eat.

So keep a watchful eye out for changes in these areas. If your child is having trouble sleeping, separating from you to go to sleep, not eating, becoming aggressive or clingy or repeating a violent scenario in their play, there is a good chance they are struggling. Circle back to them using the above parenting tips on how to talk to your child about violence.

And if you feel out of your depth or these behaviors do not begin to improve after a couple of days, seek help.


Limit exposure to media, social media and images


Setting up more restrictions to what your child views in videos, social media feeds or TV can help to reduce your child’s exposure to violent images and hateful speech that may greatly impact them. Let your child know this restriction is about protecting their mental health as well as what they should do if they accidentally stumble into media that is not appropriate for them.


Use it as a teaching moment


Talk about how others might not be safe, or feel safe, and what you can do to help support them. It is important to always reassure your child that you will work to keep them safe.

Talk about any good things that come from the event to show hope and resiliency. This lets your child know that bad things sometimes happen, but good things can come out of bad things. And that there are good people in the world that are around to help make things better again. This helps kids know that things do not stay bad for forever.


Resources for talking to kids about violence