New resource helps young people learn how community violence affects their wellbeing

Understanding the impacts of violence, along with ways to stay safe, are important strategies for youth.

As many as 96 percent of young people report that they have witnessed or been the targets of violence within their communities – violence such as fights, gun violence, sexual violence and bullying. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence emphasized the importance of recognizing that schools are not the only context where kids experience violence and trauma. While there’s been a lot of coverage about violent incidents within school settings, young people experience violence across many neighborhood and community settings.

A newly published resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network is designed to help young people learn more about how community violence can affect their daily lives, how they can understand their reactions to it, and ways to keep themselves safe. The resource helps young people explore the trauma that can occur when they experience something that threatens or causes harm to their emotional and physical wellbeing.

The resource, which is titled Community Violence: Reactions and Actions in Dangerous Times, offers a variety of strategies that youth can use for recognizing and working through troubling reactions to violent situations. These include talking with a trusted adult or finding a way to get connected with a professional counselor or therapist. Other strategies include keeping a journal, getting involved with volunteer and creative activities, building a friendship group of people who are safe and caring, and recognizing their own innate wisdom and strengths.

Many experts stress the critical roles of adults in supporting young people as they deal with these issues. Whatever your connection with young people – whether you’re a parent, other relative, neighbor, teacher, youth leader or in another kind of role – consider your responsibility to let kids know that you can be a trusted and ongoing presence in their lives for helping to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Research about preventing violence within the lives of young people has emphasized the valuable outcomes of school-based programs that build social and emotional skills. Michigan State University Extension has also responded to this need with the development of a resource called Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments. Designed for use in out-of-school time settings (such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, Scouts and afterschool programs), Be SAFE helps young people ages 11 to 14 and adults work in partnership to create environments that are physically and emotionally safe. Grounded in research on positive youth development, Be SAFE taps the wisdom and strengths of young people and fosters resiliency in the face of challenging situations such as bullying, bias and harassment.

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