In the days following the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, a Google search would turn up thousands of articles all titled “How to Talk to Your Kids About…”, fill in the blank.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Tragedy,
death and dying, and so on.
Most of the articles were good. But even the best were too narrowly focused. None spoke about dating violence.
If it takes a mass shooting, or another tragedy, to motivate you to talk with your kids, you’re too late already. The best time to talk to your kids about tragedies is before the next one happens.
The same is true when it comes to dating violence. Waiting until after your child has experienced dating violence — regardless of gender — it’s too late.
Here are some ideas for beginning those all-too-difficult conversations. Before you have the conversation with your child, think about how you can adapt them for your child’s age, maturity and personality.
You know your child better than others.
A typical family’s schedule is busy. By making regular times to talk with your children you can learn more about their world. If the two of you are already in the habit of being open, it can be easier to start the chat about harder issues later.
Some surveys report that almost 90% of teenagers say they’ve been in at least one dating relationship. To adults the relationships seem short-lived and a small matter, but for teens, dating is the most significant issue in their lives. If they want to talk, listen.
Show an interest in their world. They are in sync with different celebrities and movies than you. They have a lot going on which you don’t hear about, so show an interest in the things your child finds important.
It’s normal to be protective of your child and emotional if you find your child is experiencing dating violence. But the way and how you talk about it could work against you. When violence comes up on TV or in the news, use it as an opportunity to reassure your child that you are there for them and ready to talk when they are.
There are many ways to promote healthy relationships behaviors before your kids start dating. There are four topics experts agree which can encourage the child to respect themselves and others.
With each one, begin by asking a question to get the conversation started.
Ask, “Why is it important to respect yourself?” or “How do you show respect to yourself?”
Thinking about respect is good preparation for understanding what others need and the fact they deserve respect. Talk with your child about their experience with discrimination. Reinforce the positive relationships which mean respecting everyone.
“Have you heard of someone at school being teased since they were different?”
It is demeaning to make negative comments about someone’s races or gender. Language and actions show others they are respected. Talk with your child about appropriate conflict resolution and anger management. Help them to recognize their personal warning signs for anger and ways to manage conflict for successful resolution.
Ask “How do you feel when someone gets too aggressive?”
Convey to your child that it is never okay to use violence to control someone. It is ok to be angry, but anger needs to be expressed in a way which doesn’t hurt them or someone else.
Ask, “Why would someone stay in an abusive relationship?”
It’s never alright to physically, sexually or emotionally hurt someone in a relationship. It is never the victim’s fault if someone chooses to hurt them.
Studies show teens who are experiencing abuse are more apt to tell a friend about it than a grown-up. Assure your child that they can always talk to you about their relationships, but also remind them there are anonymous, safe sources they can turn to.
Here are three, national resources for help. Each has the latest contact information and service list for resources in Nevada
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)
The National Centers for Victims of Crime (NCVC) 1-800-FYI-CALL
The National Dating Abuse Helpline 1.866.331.9474
Love is Respect A collaboration between Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline,
Offer support, and counseling if necessary. Keep checking in with your child. One conversation probably won’t be enough to change attitudes and behavior. Keep an eye on the way they continue to treat others and ask often about how their relationships are going. Follow your instincts. If you think your child needs outside support, such as a counselor, a local shelter, youth organization, or your school may be able to give you a list of referrals.