Ray Rice was caught on camera abusing his now-wife. Adrian Peterson was accused this week of using excessive force when disciplining his son. Lately, it seems there’s no escaping the deplorable behavior of the NFL’s most popular athletes. As any parent knows, our kids pick up on popular culture—and they’re watching these controversies unfold, too. Knowing how to protect them and what conversations are in order is no easy task for a parent. We asked Barbara Paradiso, the director of the Center on Domestic Violence at CU Denver, for the three ways to include your children in the national conversation on domestic abuse.

5280: What is the most important thing to do for our kids as the NFL is spotlighted with domestic violence?

Barbara Paradiso: The most important thing is to have the conversation with our kids. The kids around us are absorbing the reactions from the media and the reactions from the parents. The most important message is letting kids know that the behavior is not OK. These people may have been a role models and have a lot of power, but the choice to use violence toward another human is not OK. We see excuses being made for the behavior, so we need to be very clear and direct. With older kids, help pull the messages apart from the media or a conversation. Ask them what they think.

What if your child has a Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson jersey? What do you suggest you do with them?

Depending of the age of your kids, ask them to tell you the things we know about this person whose name is on their jersey. They may tell you that he’s a strong football player. Then ask them about the more difficult things. After the conversation, ask the child, “Do you want to wear his jersey?” This allows them to have control and an understanding of the situation.

Outside of a conversation, what are ways for kids to make a positive impact?

The Ray Rice story will eventually fade from the media, but we have things going on in our own local communities. We can help kids make connections to their own lives. Do they know someone who is being bullied? Have they been bullied themselves? Give kids the opportunity to know they have the power to take action. Kids need to be able to reach out to people they trust in tough situations.

Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.