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Protect the Children: Change the Legacy of Fear and Violence

There is collective fear and suffering in our nation. In our cities, there have been too many shootings of black men, police officers and innocent children left without parents or killed in the line of someone’s fire.

On many levels this violence is the by-product of our fears.

Fear becomes dangerous when it looks to objectify, discriminate, and target others as a way to protest, or a desperate way to feel safe. The result is violence answered by more violence.

We have only to remember history and look worldwide to see how nations and communities get caught in a cycle that causes collective violence and obscures or forbids the voices of peaceful protest and the wish for change and connection.

We are told that the most common and extreme suffering humankind has ever experienced comes from interpersonal and human-made intentional violence. We see too many examples of this in the shootings in this country.

Perhaps the most destructive aspect of this violence is the impact on our children. We leave them unprotected if fear, hate and revenge become the intergenerational legacy they must carry.


How Can We Reduce the Impact of this Legacy?

We must work to eliminate the violence and at the same time reduce the legacy on our children, many of whom have already been directly impacted by violence.

Dr. Ann Masten, who has conducted studies on risk and resilience on children and youth exposed to homelessness, war, natural disasters, migration, and other adversities, tells us that the love and care of parents and caregivers are the “ ordinary magic” that keeps children safe, reduces the impact of adversity and builds resilience.

  • When parents of children are violently killed, those children need time, extra care, and a reset of safety in a loving attachment. They need help to cope with traumatic loss, to make meaning as they grow, to find a way to grieve.
  • Children watching the images on the media or hearing about this violence are also shaken and need clarification and support. All children going forward need to feel the presence of attuned caregivers to re-establish safety and continue to thrive.
  • Children and teens need to hear from parents and caregivers that people will find better answers. They need small examples of hope to show that there is a way to make things better in their home, their school, their church, and their nation.
  • It is the reason that what we say and do as parents and caregivers is central to the legacy of violence or hope children carry.

Speaking of her work in Rwanda, trauma expert Yael Danieli defined hope as the possibility of options in the future. She was struck that when invited, even children who had lost everything seemed willing to embrace hope for the future.

Every child needs to trust the moral fiber of those around him. Every child needs to know that the people who parent and care for her are not in danger because of race, creed, socio-economic level or uniform. Every child needs a reason to laugh every day.

  We Need to Change the Legacy to One of Hope For Our Children



Protect the Children: Change the Legacy of Fear and Violence

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Suzanne B. Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist. She is Adjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Doctoral Program of Long Island University and on the faculty of the Post-Doctoral Programs of the Derner Institute of Adelphi University. Suzanne Phillips, PsyD and Dianne Kane are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Learn more about their work at . Visit Suzanne's Facebook Page HERE.

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APA Reference
Phillips, S. (2018). Protect the Children: Change the Legacy of Fear and Violence. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Apr 2018
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