Violence against women – talking to teens
Creating positivity around women and talking about gender equality to young children is thought to help with how boys, in particular, will treat women when they become adults. This article looks at how you can make a difference to the way your older children view women.
For advice and tips on how to help younger children see our article ‘Educating kids to stop violence against women‘. Or if you are a man wondering what you can do to help keep women safe, read our tips.
As children mature and you are able to have deeper conversations with them the opportunities for discussion increase and you can also help them reflect on their own behaviour. The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” article has suggestions and tips that adults can use for teaching children and teenagers about gender equality, non-violent behaviour and the issue of violence against women and girls.
- Parents and adults need to first become educated themselves about the issue of violence against women and girls and how it impacts individuals, families and communities. Having this knowledge will better prepare you to have conversations about the issue, and identify and stop potentially violent and/or misogynistic behaviour displayed by your child.
- Strategies used with younger children such as stories and books are still relevant for older children. Use stories to teach values such as gender equality, kindness, non-violence, and respecting others.
- Open communication within the family will help children feel comfortable talking to you and be able to ask questions instead of being influenced by others around them.
- Keeping calm and listening to the child or teenager in a stressful situation is an opportunity to model non-violence and respect in relationships.
- Instead of criticising violent or aggressive behaviour, children need to learn what is an acceptable alternative. Positive reinforcement is key. Complimenting and rewarding your children when you see positive, non-violent and non-sexist behaviour when solving problems and interacting with other people teaches them what they should do rather than what they should not.
- Children still need boundaries about what is or is not acceptable. A clearly explained a “time out” if you see your child engaging in unacceptable behaviour can help teach your child about peaceful means for resolving interpersonal problems and conflicts. Once they are able to recognise and respect boundaries, (their own or other people’s), then they will develop understanding of the importance of consent in relationships and the help them reflect on aggressive or anti-social behaviour towards others.
- Explore ways of dealing with emotions. Sport can be a safety valve for letting off steam and aggression in a contained and controlled environment. It also gives opportunities to learn about fair play, accepting failure gracefully, and striving for success without hurting others and team work.
- Drama classes can provide an outlet for children and teenagers to focus and learn about the issue of violence against women through storytelling and acting.
- Parents are not the only adult the child learns from. Talk to other adults in their world (grandparents, friends etc) and work together with them to deliver the same message about the importance of non-violence and of helping to stop violence against women.
- Children and teenagers have limited life experience are to be able to connect the abstract idea of VAW (violence against women) with their own lives. Parents and others adults can help them make the connection by sharing personal stories of difficult encounters and experiences related to violence against women, bullying and sexism etc. but with 1 in 3 women worldwide experiencing gender-based violence in their lifetimes, it is possible that you may know someone who survived the violence who might be willing to talk to your child; or you may have witnessed the violence yourself.
- The internet can be a great resource for children and teenagers to learn about violence against women and its related issues. A YouTube clip can be used to generate discussions about violence against women.
- Watching and discussing a movie, a documentary or an episode of a TV show with domestic violence, rape or other forms of violence against women as a storyline or theme can also be helpful. Asking questions about what you have watched can get that children to think about the issue, why violence against women is wrong, and how they can help to stop the violence. (Caution is needed since movies featuring violence against women can be too graphic for younger)
- The internet, media and the celebrities do also pose challenges. They do not always provide positive role models for children. If you see your children begin to internalise negative ideals due to the influence of media and celebrities, engage them in conversations about what they have seen and to help them contextualise it in a healthy way. For example, conversations about why domestic or dating violence is unacceptable could be built on discussing that piece of news.
- Talk to your children about dating and relationships before they enter into the dating world. Tell them about what they can expect from a healthy relationship including mutual respect and being accepted for who they are. Discuss what abusive relationships could look like, warning signs that indicate that they may be in an abusive relationship. Helping them identify a minimum standard for their relationships equips them to identify relationships that are respectful, loving and non-violent.
- Be mindful of your own relationships and how you interact others. Children observe relationships around them. Be A Role Model. Children and teenagers usually learn and internalise life lessons from significant adults in their lives. Your reaction to anger, frustration and conflict when interacting with other people or your acceptance of negative behaviour towards women, may well become a model for your children to follow. It is important that you are aware of your own attitudes and behaviour and set yourself the same standards of non-violence, respect and acceptance that you wish to teach your children and teenagers.
By using these approaches, we can empower young people to go into adulthood with a strong understanding of their rights and responsibilities. After years of campaigning in 2019, The Department for Education stated that schools will now be given information on how sexual violence and harassment disproportionately happens to girls, and how to tackle it. Within RSHE (relationship, sex and health education), children will now learn about the different forms of violence against women and girls but this teaching needs to be supported outside of school too.
For details on helplines, charities and guides that can offer advice and guidance on all types of sexual violence, visit everyonesinvited.uk/help
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