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Gang violence traumatising children

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The on-going gang related violence in the Cape Flats has raised many concerns and has led to residents to find resolutions to see its end. The violence has resulted in death, injury and the call for there to be change. Affected residents have taken pro-active action and have successfully created awareness of the problem to the media. Yet as the violence continues and the call for a change becomes more needed, many have forgotten about the psychological impact the violence has on youth and even adults.

The effort to cease the violence and create awareness is of utmost importance as it stops the problem, but the everlasting mental effects it has on community members may be for a life time. The effects of violence on children may drastically change their emotional and mental state which could ultimately lead to more issues within communities

Councillor with the Healthcare Professional Council of SA, Zainab Kader says children express the effects of violence in two different ways.

“Children that are aggressive, show signs of conduct disorder or are violent towards people or animals are categorised as external behaviour. Children that are more withdrawn with suicide ideation are categorised as internal behaviour,” said Kader.

If parents start to notice their child become clingier, have nightmares or if their child starts to display violence, then there is a clear indication that violence has some time or another traumatized the child.

Children are moulded by their surroundings; therefore it is vital that children are surrounded by positive role-models.

“Children act out by what they witness, so it is important that teachers and parents become positive role-models. When children are exposed to negative surroundings, their present and future will be affected profoundly,” says Kader.

Kader says that teachers are sometimes overwhelmed by the large amount of students in one class, leading to children not receiving the correct amount of attention from a positive role-model.

“Teachers try their best, but there is always the need for more assistance. Teachers are more than often left feeling overwhelmed; they need support managing so many students at the same time.”

“One of the most important things parents can do for their child is to listen to them. One other thing parents can do for their children is to provide them with constructive activities, children often feel powerless when surrounded with gang violence but playing games or sport gives them a sense of achievement and hope.

“Parents can also encourage their children to do something positive for their community, the effects of positive encouragement can play a role on the outcome of a child’s future,” said Kader. VOC (Imran Salie)

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