Back to school time is gut-check time

Trust instincts, recognize abuce, know how to respond
Guest Editorial

With school back in session, students and parents are focused on classes and schedules, but it’s also time to recognize and prepare for the possibility of various forms of violence.

Domestic and sexual violence do not discriminate. Any time is a good time to start ongoing conversations with young people about what these types of violence look like, how they may be affected by it, how to help someone who may be surviving it, and ultimately how to prevent it.

How do we start having this conversation? Any age of young people can learn from you that we all need to treat each other with care and respect.

If someone hurts you physically, or tries to force you to do something you do not want to do; if your gut tells you something isn’t right, say something to someone you trust.

Make sure that the young person can name multiple people he or she would trust (parents, coaches, teachers, counselors, church members, activity families, etc.) and talk with if something happened to them. Continue to encourage those relationships and build that trust.

If they don’t quite understand the terms, explain ways in how these types of violence may look to their age level.

Young adults dating (or thinking about dating) may see a potential partner constantly texting, messaging, or calling them whether they want this constant contact or not. Younger children may have a friend who hits them whenever they’re angry or upset about something. A freshman at college may go to a party with friends and see different things going on that give them an uncomfortable feeling or gut reaction.

Gut Check Time!

Encourage every age of young person to understand what their gut instinct is, how to understand it, and how to react and trust it when they feel it. The gut instinct may react to something directly affecting them, or they may see something going on with someone else and have an instinct to step in and stop it.

There may not be a logical explanation for what they are feeling in those moments, but talking about it will provide tools to recognize something just isn’t quite “right.”

You can help them build their confidence in their gut instinct by asking them to think of a time when they listened to that inner voice.

Have them write down the situation, what they were thinking, what their body and gut was telling them, what they did to listen to it, and how it turned out. Maybe there are multiple times they can think of when they listened to their gut. Establishing the history can help build that confidence to listen to themselves and their bodies when they’re in different situations.

With school back in session, now is the perfect time to prepare young people close to you to build confidence in their gut instincts.

For more information on initiating these ongoing conversations, or for more details on what domestic or sexual violence may look like to different ages of students, contact our G.R.A.C.E. youth program advocates at youth@mnswcc.org or 800-376-4311.

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