Adolescent Violence Prevention Page
(by Peter Stringham MD, Boston University Medical Campus)
What to Do After
an Injury Due to a Fight
If 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 .
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.
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.
Many 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 Home
THIS 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 with
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.
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.
Many adults 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.
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.
Despite 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
· 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.
· Parents can practice kind nonviolent
behavior when they are in a conflict with their children.
"Your aunt 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?"
The safest 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 value.
You 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,
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."
school and community groups be sure that the adults are teaching adolescents respect for themselves and everyone
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
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.
"All 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.
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 adults.
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 quite well.