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Teens and risky behaviors: Violence at school

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Feeling unsafe at school

Over the last decade and a half, there has been an increase in the percentage of kids who have not gone to school on a given day because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to and from school. According to a series of biannual surveys directed by the Center for Disease Control, this number has gone up even while there has been a decrease in the percentage of kids carrying a weapon (both on and off school property) or getting into physical fights.

Girl fight at school

While the decreases in weapons and fighting is a good thing, those percentages are not yet zero. And the increase in kids feeling unsafe? That trend is not easy to think about; it's so encompassing - and subjective and objective all at once. We like to think of our schools as safe - and for the most part they are - but stopping school violence in action and feeling starts at home with each and every one of us.

Social influences

Violence in media, including television, movies, music and video games, certainly has an influence on kids today and their perceptions of appropriate behavior, but it's not the only reason there is violence and sometimes a lack of a feeling of safety at schools. Violence seems to be self-perpetuating. A little bit begets a little more begets a little more begets a lot more Parents must actively working to counteract even the smallest amount of experienced or observed violence and the influence of media. Parents do this with supervision and guidance - and talking.

A chemical reaction

Add to social influences the unpredictability of adolescent hormones and some days you have a teenage body full of explosives just waiting to be lit - and just about anything can light it. You've seen it before at home when your adolescent seems to explode in anger for no apparent reason. It's hormones, it's the uncertainty of the age, it's the pressure of being not quite a child and not quite a grown up, and it's an extreme desire to fit in. Imagine a whole school building of those hormones and pressures. But while it may be understandable to some extent, it's not okay for a kid (or anyone) to lash out physically.

Problem solving tools and resources

What you can do with your child is help them develop problem-solving and stress management skills that they can use when the frustration level gets high. Role play, imagine scenarios, talk about ways to head off challenging situations - and listen to your child when they are willing to tell you what is happening in their world. Talk about ways to avoid violence and create safety.

These are challenging discussions and activities to be sure. Risk behaviors, in all their forms, challenge us as parents to step up and continue to parent our almost-grown children.

More on parenting teens:

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