Parents, community leaders, and policymakers need to take the lead in lessening the violence that children see, hear about and experience...work with parents to improve their coping and emotion regulation capacities and the quality of their relationships with their children.
A high-quality parent-child relationship, as this study has shown, has a strong potential to affect children's adjustment.
A first step in getting there is to attend to the mental health needs of parents, many of whom are suffering from depression or PTSD.
Once parents are treated for their own adjustment problems and are coping more effectively, they are better able to be available and supportive to their children.Kliewer, W., Cunningham, J.N., Diehl, R., Parrish, K.A., Walker, J.M., Atiyeh, C., Neace, B., Duncan, L., Taylor, K. & Mejia, R. (2004). Violence Exposure and Adjustment in Inner-City Youth: Child and Caregiver Emotion Regulation Skill, Caregiver-Child Relationship Quality, and Neighborhood Cohesion as Protective Factor. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 33(3), 477-487.
Protective factors can only go so far. At high levels of violence exposure, even the best families will suffer. In addition to promoting protective factors, we need to work together to reduce all types of violence exposure among our children.
Families matter. Parents and children are inextricably linked. Let's respect and nurture that relationship, no matter how tenuous it appears.
Child therapy is family therapy. Children exist in a system called a family, not in isolation. What happens to one family member affects the whole. Stabilizing the family will go a long way toward stabilizing the child.
Instead of becoming a substitute caregiver for a child, I wanna support the parent in their care-giving role. Then I can watch happily as parent and child reach for each other for love and support.