Adolescent Violence Prevention Page
(by Peter Stringham MD, Boston University Medical Campus)
What to Do After an Injury Due to a
a child has been injured by violence, it is a time for many cool heads. Parents should
seek medical attention if there is any question about the extent of the injuries. Once things are stable medically,
someone needs to find out exactly how the injury happened. He needs to get all the details, filling in any
gaps that don’t seem to make sense. He needs to see if this incident is safely settled for the short term and
needs to find out what part the injured child may have had in the incident.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
At this point is the teenager safe? (Is anyone coming after him for revenge because
of an unsettled disagreement?) |
· Does he know what to do if he does
not feel safe? (Can he get help if he finds the dispute continues?)
Is there anyone else who is not safe? (Will the other person be attacked? Are either party’s
friends or relatives trying to get revenge?)
. Who can settle
this non violently before it gets bigger? (Is there a mutual friend or trusted adult who can talk to all parties
and calm this down and settle it? Do you need to call the school? the police?)
the acute conflict is settled parents and other responsible adults need to do a longer term intervention depending
on the individual incident and individual child.
| If the attack was serious and the child was an innocent
bystander and had nothing to do with the attack he may need help with post traumatic stress. Trained
counselors or therapists can help with this.
If the teenager seemed upset before the injury
and seemed to put himself in a dangerous situation, a trained therapist or counselor can help
the underlying problem-- maybe depression .
If the teenager was experimenting with violence and wouldn’t walk
away from the fight, he may need some help learning how to handle street conflicts non violently and he might
need to join one or more healthy groups.
In any of these cases the community might need
more adult supervision of the place where the injury occurred. Parents can talk to other parents
to get support for themselves and set up safer environments for their adolescents.
people in the medical community are trying to establish these guidelines in all emergency rooms and medical practices.
If the community requests these responses, it will make the change in the practice of medicine go faster.
What Parents Can Do at
SECTION IS DESIGNED FOR PARENTS BUT OTHER PEOPLE LIKE COACHES, TEACHERS AND COUNSELORS CAN READ IT TOO.
Try to be a good role model for handling conflict.
A child learns how to approach the world by seeing what goes on in the home and how you approach the world.
The culture of the media tells all of us to be aggressive and a bully when dealing with adversity. Our culture has
long been one of "might makes right" and "rich is better." Many of us grew up
in homes where men made most of the decisions and the women went along with that. You have to be sure to expose
the myths in our culture--to show your children that all in your family are of equally high value
and that you know even your adversaries are high value human beings like yourself who deserve to be treated
sure you handle stress well without being self destructive, defeatist or violent. Show them how you handle
your anger by keeping yourself cool in a crisis and always treating people with respect. Tell your children
how you acted at work to calm down and truly resolve conflicts. Your teaching of self restraint when under
verbal attack can allow a child to calm down an upset opponent and may save his life.
Most adults agree that truly
successful human beings live with high ethics and good morals. When you have choices you usually choose decently
and morally. Adolescents need help identifying what are good morals and good ethics.
The tabloids and television love to
tell stories of cowardice, greed, deceit, self indulgence, blaming others for problems, disrespect for others and
violence. In the media everyone is a victim and few are responsible for their own good or poor actions. While interesting
to look at in others, those poor decisions seem shallow, sad and not really decent. People who define
themselves as "victims" justify their striking out and excuse all kinds of terrible behavior.
You can try to identify your own morals. You can value courage, helping
others (altruism), trying for fairness (justice), self denial, trying for goodness, trying to do what is
right, kindness, self control, respect for all human beings, and trying for non violence.
Set examples for people you have contact with and you may well counteract
much of the media’s nonsense. "Do as I do," teaches the most powerful lessons. Adolescents
cannot easily see the value of honest work for lower pay as superior to sleazy or unethical work for high
pay. Live this in your own life and children will see it. Remember that many moral and ethical people sometimes are
selfish and unethical sometimes. When prominent figures have their lapses exposed, help your children think
about the totality of their lives.
and teenagers have learned non violent problem solving at work. When confronted with an angry aggressive
customer we try to communicate and connect with the decent side of the aggressor. We try
to keep ourselves alert, but not anxious, cautious but not afraid. Sometimes we decide to just get away from a dangerous
situation. This safe assertive problem solving works on the streets for your teenagers.
Just like younger teenagers
however you may be upset after the situation is safe, After an experience with a particularly aggressive customer
we may wish we had handled the conflict with rudeness or violence, because we ourselves have been exposed
to all the cowboy and spy ‘heroes’ who we may secretly admire. Similarly we might feel upset because
the aggressive customer reminded us of a time when we experienced violence when we were younger. And although
noble to take some abuse from someone who is upset, most of us do not like it. Potential and real violence are
emotional issues for us all.
our emotions and fantasies, we must remember that non violent, assertive problem solving works better than violence.
It is safer for us at work, and it allows us to end up with a customer who is somewhat satisfied and safety
for ourselves and at least of no further threat.
Try to keep yourself and young people from defining themselves as ‘victims.’ Everyone
has advantages and disadvantages. Life can be seen as making the most of what you have already been given. Too much
blaming ‘others’ for your problems, while possibly true, gives the message that all of life
is either "good luck" or "bad luck" and that human beings cannot work out ways to live a happy
and decent life despite disadvantages.
All of us are sometimes overwhelmed.
We work hard at stressful jobs. When parents come home they would like peace and quiet, but their second job
has begun. They need to feed their families, be sure the homework is done and think about the next day. Just like
at work, parents can take a break before rushing to start dinner and ask "what is going on? What do
we as a family need to do?" Some parents have their children report on the "most
interesting thing and the oddest thing that happened that day" as a way to start the conversation.
After 15 minutes you can feel everyone knows where everyone else is at, and you can start the dinner. Write down
family things to do and figure out how to do the tasks and who can do them. Even if communication is sometimes
one way you can communicate your love and respect.
· Older children need communication. They need parents’ opinions about alcohol
and other drugs, smoking, tattoos, violence, dating relationships and sex. Trust that your values are better than
someone who is hanging on the corner and happy to teach your child how to fight, drink, drug, get his nipples
pierced and have sex.
can practice kind nonviolent behavior when they are in a conflict with their children.
is coming to visit and I want your room clean. I’ve asked you four times and it is still a mess. I love you,
but this messy room is driving me crazy. I expect you to work out this problem for us. By what time can
it get done?"
people are those who consider themselves and all other human beings of high value and as a result do not fight
with anyone. Bullies and other violent people feel powerful and good about themselves and sometimes
feel good about their violence. A teenager’s ability to get out of a dangerous situation may depend
on his ability to connect with the decent side of the aggressor and recognize that the aggressor
is a person of high value even though he is being obnoxious at the moment. Another person can have ideas, values
or abilities that are of higher or lower value, but in the ultimate scheme of things all people are of high
can also model respect. If someone begins to tell ethnic jokes at a family gathering you might want to ask the person
to stop. If they don’t you might say,
"When people start referring to other people by using disrespectful
names they sometimes take away that person’s value as a human being. Once a person is dehumanized
some other people think it is all right to hurt that person. I don’t want to ever encourage that. I don’t
allow disrespectful talk around me."
In the school and community groups be sure that the adults are teaching adolescents
respect for themselves and everyone else.
would you do if someone was calling a kid you kind of like a ‘homo’ or ‘fag’? The kid isn’t
there so he might never hear about it. And you have no idea if the kid is homosexual. Using any kind
of slur takes away people’s humanity;. It is hard to speak up sometimes, but I’ve always felt better
when I defended someone who wasn’t there to defend himself. You could say, "Hey! That’s my friend
you’re talking about, so watch it. You can be mad at him without calling him names." What do you think?"
Handling Frustration and Anger
The only people
who never experience frustration are leading completely empty lives. Feeling frustration and disappointment are a
normal part of trying to accomplish anything. Sometimes frustration feels like disappointment, sometimes
like feeling depressed, and sometimes like anger.
Healthy ways of handling frustration are talking about the problem with parents,
friends or other trusted adults. A person needs temporary healthy ways to get rid of the anger until he can find
time to discuss the problem.
teenagers feel frustrated sometimes. If you set high goals, you will sometimes miss those goals, and you can feel
disappointed, depressed, frustrated and even angry. There are lots of unhealthy ways to handle frustration
, and there are healthy ways.
ways are talking to people about feeling frustrated and explaining how you feel. You can talk to me or any other
sensible adult. Sometimes you can’t talk to someone you trust right away. In that case you can try
to distract yourself with physical exercise, music or doing something else you like. It is easy to think of all the
unhealthy ways to handle frustration--drinking, drugging, smoking, overeating, spending too much money,
gambling, unsafe or inappropriate sex, kicking the cat, fighting with a friend, picking on someone or hurting yourself.
Stick with the healthy ways. "
As part of the daily check in with their child parents can ask, "What
was the most interesting thing that happened today? What was the oddest thing? The worst thing?" Teenagers
can ask the same things of their parents.
Enjoyment in Life
children who are violent do not feel enjoyment in life. Others have no sense of connectedness or meaning in the universe.
Many non violent problem solving teenagers feel a connection to all other people, nature and the universe,
and they can feel good when they relax. They are able to keep themselves calm when under stress.
The ability to keep calm and
feel the decency of a person who is trying to fight with them is an advantage to the child who is trying to keep
himself and his friends safe in an argument. A calm adolescent can see if he is sensing real fear that means
he should get away, or if he thinks he can talk to the decent side of the kid.
Identify the ability to enjoy oneself, calm down
quickly and feel the decency of all other people as a high priority. Organized religion does not always
teach these skills, but it can. The family can model ways to enjoy creativity, hobbies and other healthy pursuits.
The community can expose children to a variety of ways to feel enjoyment and calmness. Sometimes a child
needs to join more than one group,-- for example a sports team and an environmental group--or a church group and
a camping group.
you sometimes you get that feeling-- ‘I really love this right now!’? That feeling of enjoyment
is one of the most important parts of life. I get that feeling when I am walking in a woods and just hear the wind
and birds. It is not the same as feeling a thrill like when you are skiing really fast. It is a quiet, calm
feeling. Handling stress, succeeding in school and being a good person are important, but feeling really glad
to be alive is important to feel many times a day. It may be the most important part of life.
"When I am
feeling really glad to be alive and someone starts to insult me. I find I can usually keep myself calm and remember
that the other person is upset and may be insulting me , but that he is a decent human being. Then I can
usually talk to him.
are still young, and no one expect you to be able to feel really great all the time or feel the decency
of everyone you meet all the time, or always keep cool under stress, but these are good goals."
Get Others to Help
are not finished growing and they will make mistakes. It the job of parents and the community to correct their
mistakes and teach them the right way to go. Teenagers need to hear the same messages of respect, enjoyment
of life, handling frustration well, communicating well and loving themselves and the world from a variety of
healthy community has a variety of programs for teenagers of all interests. These programs need to be led
by caring adults who are kind, set good limits, create atmospheres where there is no fear and where there is mutual
respect for everyone. At home, at school and in the community, children need to be praised when they do
the right thing and gently and firmly corrected when they are wrong. They need guidance.
It should be obvious that this guidance
should not include any physical punishment, which allows a child to waste time on resentment and anger and keeps
them from hearing the major lessons you want to teach. There is no place for corporal punishment,
screaming at teenagers aggressively or pushing them around.
This ‘community’ of caring parents, relatives, school, youth
groups and community groups should help teenagers believe in themselves, feel hope and grow to become healthy
do the best they can realizing that they cannot raise adolescents alone. Parents may feel frightened because
they know that sometimes people can mess up. Use the resources around you. Children need help with all kinds
of issues and parents may not be the best person to talk to about a particular problem. Try assembling a list
of all the resources and friends a teenager has. Even a troubled teenager will see that there are adults
and older teenagers who can help him. At the end of adolescence most people become pretty normal adults who can deal with life