• Violence children see on screens, in neighborhoods could have permanent impact

    By: Winnie Wright

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The horrific incidents that took place in both El Paso and Dayton this weekend have affected many people across the country.

    But how has that news affected children?

    FOX13 spoke with a therapist who said everyday violence that children are exposed to can have life-long effects.

    She said as they head back to school, now is a good time to talk to kids about how violence they experience every day has affected them.

    “Essentially, trauma impacts your brain and your growth and development,” said Kristin Landers, clinical director of Youth Villages.

    Youth Villages is a nonprofit that works with at-risk families.

    Many of the children Landers works with have been exposed to violence.

    “When you experience a trauma, it creates what I call a ‘wrinkle’ in your brain. Unless you’re able to manage it or have some support and help you deal with that trauma, the wrinkle stays there,” she explained.


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    Kids these days are exposed to violence everywhere they look: on TV, video games, and for many Memphis children, in their own neighborhoods.

    While it may not affect parents – or maybe they’re used to it – kids may be scared and don’t know how to tell their parents.

    “Violence is one of those things that has become normalized. If you live in a community where violence is pretty active, that becomes a new state of normal,” Landers said.

    She said it’s important to ask kids how violent events make them feel, be supportive of those feelings, and re-enforce always that they’re safe.

    “I’m sure every parent can say at one point or another they’ve been guilty of a slip such as, ‘Well, we can’t shop at Walmart anymore,’ or something to that effect. But does that sort of nuance stick with children?” FOX13 asked.

    “I think so, and I think that’s the piece we have to, as parents, have to think about how we want to handle the conversation, and be able to say, ‘Yes, it does feel scary. I feel a little bit scared too, but I also feel safe. Look what police officers are doing, look what the community is doing,’” she answered.

    Landers said it’s important to talk about how violence makes your kids feel at every age, and it might just look different depending on how old they are.

    “Young children are very concrete. They need a lot of reassurance. They need to know they have safe people in their lives. I still think you can create a conversation with a young child, but the most important takeaway is to keep your emotions in-check as a parent because young children pick up on our emotions. Opening the conversation up for them and reassuring them, talking about people who are safe in their lives and things that they see people doing in the community to protect them.”

    With adolescents, Landers suggests trying a different approach.

    “Their brain is more developed. They can have a longer, maybe more thoughtful conversation. It’s really a matter of parents opening that conversation up to them and finding solutions together. Being open and being comfortable saying, ‘We don’t know all the time as a parent, but let’s figure it out together.’ Adolescents you can really engage in a back-and-forth conversation with them.”

    FOX13 asked Landers if there are signs parents should look out for.

    “You might notice a younger child not wanting to get out of the car in the carpool line. They might be crying, they might be scared. You might be wondering why. You might see behavioral things like crying, or being anxious, or bed-wetting, maybe bad dreams. As kids age, it looks a little bit different. It might look a little bit more like anger, particularly in an adolescent. Or depression, sort of moving away from activities they normally would engage in.”

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