Talking with children and youth about violence in the news

SHERPA creates online toolkit for parents

Images of war, terrorism and other forms of violence are so pervasive in today’s media that children are at times exposed to news they might find bewildering.  To guide parents in the sensitive task of discussing troubling world events with their children, SHERPA Research Centre has created an online toolkit.

“A team of our clinicians and researchers developed resources that will encourage parents to engage their children with honesty and compassion,” says Laurence Lefebvre-Beaulieu, a SHERPA Coordinator in Knowledge Mobilization and Transfer. Six age-appropriate videos are available to parents of small children, adolescents and teens in both French and English. Printed brochures in French also offer ideas on initiating conversations or responding to spontaneous questions about violence and conflicts.

To help contextualize topics that produce anxiety, the toolkit proposes methods involving creative expression such as storytelling, drawing and sand games with figurines. “There are no perfect words,” the narrator intones. “What matters is that your child feels that you want to reassure them.” Ms. Lefebvre-Beaulieu explains that helping children to articulate their concerns can be more important than offering definitive answers. She adds that the news itself can serve as a catalyst for frank and positive discussions, especially with youth.

As with one mother, who shared how a report on domestic violence helped her to broach the subject of consent and agency over her body with her daughter.

“It is important not to ignore hard subjects or to make children feel that some subjects are taboo in the home,” notes Ms. Lefebvre-Beaulieu. “Communication is the key to influencing how children deal with contentious topics.”