“Be the Change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi
These are the words that echoed in my son’s head this weekend…the words he made me add to our family contract, front and center. He is ten years old and I have finally found it in me to make him aware of the tragedies that are happening all too often in our schools these days. I have been trying my best to shelter him from knowing, not wanting him to be afraid to go to school. I realize now that this was wrong, and an act that shows how privileged we truly are. Seeing the incredible, courageous kids standing up this weekend, speaking their minds and taking enormous steps in an effort to change the world was, in a word, humbling. They made me take a hard look at what I am doing to be the change, and made me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they will succeed where we have failed them.
My son and I spent some time today talking about what we can do here in Downingtown to make the world a better place. This is not a political blog, it is a parenting blog, so I will leave guns out of it. Regardless of your opinion on gun control, I think that we, as parents, can all agree that there are many contributing factors to the dramatic rise in suburban school shootings, and that if it were in our power to stop the violence, we would do it in a heartbeat. Here are some thoughts, from our one little household in Downingtown school district, on what we as individuals can do to help.
- Teach your kids an emotional vocabulary: When you see your child acting aggressive or angry, help them figure out what it is they’re actually feeling. Is it possible they are frustrated with school? Feeling threatened by another kid? Anxious about an upcoming sports event? Too often our kids, especially boys, don’t know how to identify their feelings or react appropriately. Building their emotional intelligence will be critical to enabling them to cope with obstacles down the road.
- Raise heroes and teach them to be includers: Teach them what to do when they see another kid in trouble or being left out. We’ve covered both topics in Parent 2 Parent before but it cannot be said enough.
- Show kindness: No matter how scary or depressing the world seems, things always start to look up when you are setting an example of good by starting a Kindness chain reaction.
- Encourage awareness and empathy: Especially that of their immediate surroundings and checking in with their friends’ feelings. Way too often we hear of people missing the signs and wishing that they had paid more attention so that they could reach out before it was too late.
- Build their confidence: Confident kids will stand up for themselves and for others, instead of perpetuating the cycle of judgement, insecurity, and bullying. But building self-esteem is a tough thing to do…and how do you do it while still encouraging them to leave their comfort zone to take risks and letting them encounter failure? Here’s one link from Scholastic that may have some clues.
- Watch for signs of mental health issues: In your own kids and their friends. If you see any red flags, make sure that they get the help that they need.
- Keep your home safe and temptation free: Allowing easy access to drugs, alcohol, and firearms are one thing a parent never wants to look back on and regret. Make sure that the proper precautions are taken to keep dangerous items from falling into the wrong hands.
- Don’t be afraid to ask other parents if they have guns in their homes: While tragedies continue to happen every day at an alarming rate, surprisingly many parents still feel awkward asking this question. DON’T!! You have every right to know if the home your child is about to play/sleepover in is a safe place. If you find that you’re uncomfortable with the answer, suggest that the event happen at your house instead. Easy and done!
- Vote: The polls are the first step in initiating change. That’s what our country is all about.
Everything on this list may seem like such a small, insignificant act…almost pointless. But change doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen by sitting on our butts. If every single one of us in every single home across the USA did one or two or three of these things, the additive effect could be amazing. If you want to be part of the movement, just take a look at the kids from Parkland and from Downingtown. Look at them and get inspired to do something…anything. Every long journey begins with one step. Let our kids lead us to a better world.