Young people who are victims of violence or bullying by their peers exhibit certain signals, including:

  • Persistent attempts to stay home from school because of unexplained sickness.
  • Unexplained or suspicious “accidents” resulting in cuts, bruises, and other injuries.
  • Drastic changes in eating habits or weight.
  • Signs of depression, self-mutilation or threatened suicide.

Similarly, kids engaged in risky and even violent behavior may:

  • Show a sudden loss of interest in school or a significant drop in grades.
  • Have disciplinary problems at school or after-school activities.
  • Stay out late after curfew and offer no explanation about where they’ve been.
  • Develop a deep fascination with violent or gory images in video games, music or movies.

Any of these behaviors may also be connected to other issues going on in a child’s life. But the only way to ensure they get the guidance they need to avoid harm and make healthy choices is for you to get serious about getting involved!

What you can do

5 keys to helping kids avoid violence

Key #1

Relationships

Young people respond well to a positive relationship with an adult who authentically cares. Kids need to be certain that someone understands them, values them and is interested in their lives. This can be a parent, a teacher, or a mentor —in short, this can be you. Studies show that children who have a positive relationship with an adult are far less likely to act out violently.

Key #2

Safety

No matter how much time you spend every spring—if you plant your roses in the middle of a busy road, they’ll never reach full bloom. Kids are no different—they need a safe environment and the right care in order to grow. Mercy Home provides its young people with a true feeling of safety and security so that they can focus on healing and on building their futures.

Key #3

Love

Children who are loved, and who know they are loved, are more confident, have more respect for themselves and for others, and behave in a more socially-positive way.

Key #4

Boundaries

While exploring and even rebelling are just a normal part of growing up, all young people still secretly want—and need—to know where the limits are to their behavior. Having an adult create and maintain well-defined boundaries helps kids feel safer and more secure, and helps them grow into healthy and confident adults.

Key #5

Opportunities

Violence often stems from a lack of opportunity. This is true not only in terms of job, educational and recreational options, but of the chance for children to channel their emotions or frustrations in an acceptable way. At Mercy Home, our youth care staff is trained in de-escalation techniques to help kids act appropriately in response to their emotions in any given situation. We also provide the resources they need for long-term success and self-reliance, such as a good education and career training.

If you suspect that a child you know is experiencing serious violence or trauma, or is exhibiting behavior that threatens his or her future, please seek professional help. You can also refer a child to Mercy Home. We work to find the optimal solution for every child, either through placement in our residential program or through other resources in our extensive network of social service agencies.

You are important to a child—and you can be the difference that keeps a child safe.

Photo credit: anthony kelly

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