Why has this happened again? What will YOU do?
Where do we go from here? It seems that we have to ask this way too often. We continue to see the images of beautiful children who have been tragically lost scroll across our TV and computer screens. The tears seem endless. What do we do with our emotions, our anger, our sadness? We must use these feelings to move our families and our country in a positive direction. The time is now when our emotions are so raw and our hearts are so full of pain. Now is the time to look at what we need to do as parents to help prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again. We are powerful. I will not get into the political rhetoric about gun control, whether you agree or disagree with gun control….there is so much more that we can do right now beginning today.
- Love your children deeply, be involved in their lives. Teach the values of life and love to your children from moment one. Provide security to your children and shelter them from adult problems and evil in the world. Their little minds cannot process the scary truths that exist in our world. Do not parent with fear…we must not make our children live in fear.
- Help your children develop empathy. Children who have highly developed social and emotional intelligence are less likely to hurt each other. Empathy and social/emotional intelligence does not just appear in a child. We must provide the environment for it to flourish. Talk to your child about feelings, role play what to do when they see someone hurting, read books about emotions and feelings, point out actions that result in positive feelings, volunteer together as a family and provide several adult mentors who share your family values for your child. Surround your child with real relationships. Every child should have at least 5 adults in their life who they trust. Social media provides disconnected “pretend” relationships, control your child’s social media exposure. Make it a priority to monitor your child’s social media interaction. When was the last time you looked at your child’s phone? YouTube channel? Snapchat? Instagram? We must take responsibility to know what our children are doing and seeing on social media. Stay one step ahead of your child….that takes work. Being a parent takes work!
- Mentor. Need an outlet for action after this tragedy? Look what your community has to mentor children at risk. Coach, lead a scout troop, be a Big Brother or Big Sister, join youth advocacy/assistance programs…become the stable adult for children who are struggling because of unstable family lives or lack of stable adult role models. We can’t just talk we must act. We must DO not just talk.
- Protect your children from being exposed to violence in video games and TV. I feel that the violence our children see is one of our biggest mistakes as a society. The realistic violent video games that so many of our children are exposed to can numb a young mind to violence and its horror. Some will argue that children have played “cops and robbers” or “army” for generations, but never have children been exposed through that imaginary play to the reality of violence that is so graphic in these video games. Our children are “killing” with these games in graphic detail….these detailed images are not healthy for young immature minds.
- Support our young boys. All of these mass shootings have been carried out by young males. Our boys need to learn how to express their anger, frustration, and emotion in ways that are non-violent. Our boys need fathers and male role models who teach how to be strong men, but men who use their strength to love and care for others. Our young men MUST have loving role models. We must support intact families and mentors for those young men who are searching for adult role models. Surround your children with adults who can mentor…they need more than just you.
- Support our children and adults who have mental illnesses. Parents of troubled children must be their advocate to help them receive the help that is so desperately needed. Teachers must be alert to those students who need services and address those needs with parents. We must NOT be afraid to address this issue. We must remove the stigma of mental health issues. We all must support mental health programs and advocate for more programs. Communities need support and services for those parents who are parenting children with mental illness. Simply calling and reporting or removing a child from a school does not address the problem. Our voices need to be loud and clear, mental health cannot be ignored.
- Talk about gun safety and gun control. If you have guns in your home, they must be locked up and inaccessible, period. As a country, we must discuss in a nonpolitical way the laws surrounding the purchase of guns, but we must find the core values that are missing in our society too. Controlling guns without strengthening our families, instilling values of life, love, discipline, and I believe spirituality in our children, supporting the emotional needs of our young boys, and providing services for the mentally ill will not stop the violence. We can’t be one dimensional with this issue.
- Have open discussions with our schools to be sure that there are safety policies in place. We must be sure that our children are protected by common sense safety policies in the schools. Invest in school safety. Talk to your children and reassure them that they are safe at school and answer their questions about their safety gently. Fear does not prevent violence; it only increases the damage. Children should not live and go to school in fear.
- Get active. Use your emotions. Reach out and help those who are hurting, write letters, form groups to pressure companies to stop marketing violent games, join school safety committees, become a mentor to troubled youth…action heals hurt. Be a part of the solution. Be a part of the change this country desperately needs.
- Take care of your own emotions. Take a break from the news reports. Talk to other parents, your family, members of your church, friends, anyone who can support you in moments of sadness and anxiety. Redirect your thoughts to reasons you are grateful. Hug your children and revel in the moment. Protect our children from the adult conversations about this tragedy.
Now is the time to act. Our emotions and feelings are raw with pain, but time will pass and soon we will be carrying on our lives in the same manner. We cannot let this tragedy go unanswered again….we are parents, we love our children, we all can do better. Let’s work together to stop the violence by changing the country our children live in…..we can do this together. Let’s not just talk….let’s be advocates.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Becoming a parent