Habitot Children's Museum                                                                                                                      March 2018
March 2018
Parenting Topic of the Month

Parents Can Play a Role in Preventing
School Violence


What parents and other adults should know

Beyond supporting our legislators to enact commonsense gun control measures, there’s something very important parents can, and should be a part of:  ensuring that isolated, friendless and otherwise “different” children are included in the social life of schools and preschools.

When a 19-year-old perpetrates a horrific act like a school shooting, it’s important to recognize that on some level he was deeply hurting. He is angry, sad, afraid, isolated, friendless, abused, bullied, rejected and/or mentally ill because of a lifetime of social and emotional damage. These evil acts to not arise out of nothing. Researchers know that extreme violence is almost always preceded by certain behavioral problems. A lack of social connectedness is one of the most prominent.

With many eyes and ears, parents and even other children can often spot smaller problems before young people grow into violence.

What you can do to help prevent young people from growing into violence

Talk with your child. Ask: Who is the child no one wants to play with? Who is never invited to birthday parties? Who is getting teased, and who are the teasers?  Who is always getting in trouble? Who sits on the sidelines and never joins in group activities? Listen for clues about who might need a friend or a family that might need some community support.

Talk with teachers and other parents about what you’ve learned. For children who struggle to make friends and build relationships, there are programs that can help them learn how (see below). Work with your child’s school to adopt age-appropriate anti-bullying programs. Push for social-emotional learning activities in the classroom. Advocate among parent peers to include all your child’s peers in social activities and speak up for school-wide policies of inclusion.

One teacher recently shared that every so often, she asks her students to write on a piece of paper the names of students they would most like to sit near. She uses the answers, not just to place students, but to see patterns about who is never named, who are the children with few friends, who can’t think of anyone they would like to sit near. She can then work to better include that student and build their social skills.

Monitor your own child’s use of social media which is correlated with a decline in mental health and true social connectedness (although it may be that children who use social media excessively were already feeling isolated). Get creative and provide non-video and outside activities for the play dates you organize.

Asking children (yours and others’) about their friends, their social media use and how their day went shows them you care, even if they don’t always respond.  It’s useful to ask indirect questions, like “who are you enjoying playing with now” instead “tell me who your friends are.” Always communicate that you’re there for them, no matter what.

If you hear about children who may be becoming outcasts, don’t look away. Reach out to the parents, if you feel comfortable doing so. Coordinate some group activities that include the whole class. If your child is willing, plan a playdate with the child who has no friends. Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference in a child’s life.

Additional reading:



Evidence Based Social Skill Instruction Programs


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