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Teen Health

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Violent Behavior in Children and Teens - Topic Overview

How can parents help teens?

Parents can help protect teens from violent situations in the following ways:

  • Be involved in your teen's life.
  • Know what your teen enjoys and how he or she spends free time.
  • Know who your teen spends his or her time with.
    • Explore ways your teen can avoid unsafe situations and can avoid hanging out with troubled teens.
    • Talk to your teen about the effect a group can have on his or her life. Peers have a strong impact on a teen's behavior.
    • Protect your teen from violent media as much as possible. Youths who watch a lot of this violence may come to believe that such behavior is okay. This can make them more likely to act violently themselves. It can also lead to nightmares, aggression, or fears of being harmed.
  • Discourage physical violence. Help your teen find ways to resolve conflict without resorting to violence.
    • Role-play conflict. Let your teen determine which style fits him or her best. Role-play ways to help your teen walk away from fights.
    • Be a positive role model. Use nonviolent ways to resolve conflict in your home. Think about how you and your fellow parent each address conflict with your teen. Talk together to make sure your approaches to conflict are firm, fair, and consistent. Let your teen see you deal with a disagreement by discussing the issue, not by physically or verbally attacking the other person. Teens who witness violence in their home or community are more likely to choose violent means to resolve conflict.
  • Remove guns and other violent weapons from your home.
    • The most common victim when a teen fires a gun in the home is the teen. The second most common victim is a teenage friend.
    • Locking a gun in a separate place from the shells may help discourage access, but it is not foolproof.
  • Encourage your teen to become involved in organized sports, music, or recreational or service activities.
    • Participation in sports gives teens a sense of skill mastery and contributes to a positive self-image.
    • Being part of a team is a healthy way to release energy.
    • Organized sports and other recreational activities provide teens with good role models.
  • Talk to your teen about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Dating abuse is common among teens. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, or physical. It can happen in person, over the computer, and over the phone. Explain that a caring partner would not do something to someone that causes fear, lowers self-esteem, or causes injury. Ask your teen to talk to you or another trusted person if he or she has concerns about abuse. Have your teen keep the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline toll-free phone number (1-866-311-9474) handy. For more information, see the topic Domestic Abuse or go to
  • Discourage alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drug use are involved in over half of all violent situations among teens. Talk with your teen about what to do if he or she is in a situation where alcohol or drugs are being used.
  • Be a positive role model. All other adults in the house and other family members can be good role models as well.
    • Use safety measures, such as wearing your seat belt, whenever possible.
    • React to difficult situations in a calm, relaxed manner. Avoid yelling or name-calling.
    • Monitor your own alcohol or drug use.
      • Do not give your teen the idea that you have to have a drink in order to enjoy yourself.
      • Never drink and drive.
  • Pay attention to your teen's perceptions. Teens who view the world as harsh, interpret harmless situations as hostile, and view people as either victims or bullies are often more prone to violence. If this describes your child, talk to him or her about your concerns.
  • Get help. Talk with a health professional or licensed counselor if you think your teen may need help responding to conflict.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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