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Gangs - Preventing involvement

Parents, it's your responsibility to make sure your child isn't getting involved with the wrong crowd. Gangs are a very real problem in Calgary and you child may be vulnerable to their influence.

What you can do to keep you child away from gangs

Whether you realize it or not, all children can be at risk to join gangs. As a parent, you have a lot more power than you think to prevent your children from joining gangs. Children and teens with good skills in dealing with other people are less likely to join gangs or to be involved in negative behaviour.

The most important thing you can do for your child is to make them feel like they belong and are loved and valued by their family. Here are some tips:

  • Spend time alone with each child. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you get to know each other better.
  • Plan family time. Make time for your family to play, eat meals together, take trips, maintain or develop family traditions, and have family meetings to talk about plans, feelings, and complaints.
  • Listen to your children and ask their opinions. Help your children talk with you without fear of punishment. Do not talk down to your children - even though adults are older, children's thoughts and feelings deserve respect.
  • Talk to your children about ways to deal with pressure from friends. Help your children develop some simple ways to respond to peer pressure. For example, if your child is challenged by a peer who says, "If you are my friend, you would..." your child can respond, "If you were my friend, you wouldn't ask." Then, he/she should walk away.
  • Set limits with your children and teens. Children and teenagers need to know clearly what is expected of them and the consequences for acting otherwise. Do not rescue children from the consequences of their decisions.
  • Learn about gang activity in your area. Talk to your children about the negative things that gangs do, and how they can affect your child, their friends, your neighbourhood, and your family.
  • Point out violent messages on television and in movies. Talk to your children about ways they can solve their problems without fighting or violence, and demonstrate the strategies in your own life.
  • Get to know your child's friends and their parents. When children start to feel pressure to use drugs or join gangs, it usually comes from their friends.
  • Start educating your children at an early age. While five-year-olds may not understand about the effects of joining a gang, they can learn to say "no" to negative behavior.

Building your child's self confidence and social skills

To build self-confidence and respect for others in their children, focus on the following:

  • Honest communication. Children need to learn to express feelings such as anger, joy, love and fear. They must believe it is okay for them to express these feelings without being teased or punished.
  • Cooperation. Children must learn to cooperate, negotiate, and put themselves in another person's shoes. Praise your children for cooperating, especially when they are able to work out a compromise.
  • Personal responsibility. Teach your children to be responsible for their actions. Let them know that even if they do not get something right at first, what counts is that they are trying hard and learning from the experience.
  • Ability to make decisions. Instead of solving problems for your children, give them the chance to think of possible solutions.
  • Ability to give and receive unconditional love. Love your children for who they are, regardless of how well they do in school, sports, or other activities. Even if you are angry with them, let them know you still love and respect them.