Steps You Can Take Today to Prevent the Next School Shooting

There is something every single one of us can do today to help end violence, and I don't mean arguing with each other about gun control on FB or waiting for the politicians to change something. We can see beyond gun control to the deeper issue - why are our children picking up guns in the first place? We need to ask the hard questions instead of pointing fingers, and then do what is required to change this, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Hurting people hurt people. People that have empathy for the pain of someone else do not. People that are mentally healthy and supported do not need guns. Our children are desensitized to violence (almost every advertisement for a tv show or movie during the super bowl was violent.) Kids are lacking in real, physical connection with people that doesn't involve an electronic device as the mediator (most adults are lacking in this too.) Classmates of the shooter used to joke that this kid would be the one to come in and shoot up the school. This is not a joke. It's a cry for help. Our children need to know who to talk to and how to help someone. Adults need to know how to help someone too.

This kid didn't turn into a monster yesterday, he needed help and mental health along the way and didn't get it.

So what can you do, this very minute to help change this? Here are some ideas, feel free to add to the list in the comments and share this so other people can add too.

1. Put down your phone and pick up your kid. The addiction to devices in both parents and children is causing a lack of empathy and connection.

2. Stop spewing hatred on social media. Our kids are watching and learning from how we behave.

3. Use parenting peer pressure in a positive way. Instead of giving in because your kid is the only one without "x" (the game, the phone by their bed at night, the netflix show you really don't want them to watch, the sleepover you don't feel comfortable with them going to), band together with other parents and agree that you will not let your kids have "x" until a certain age. If you can't do that, trust your gut. Say no and explain why. They may hate you now, but it's better than you hating yourself later.

4. Keep an eye on what your kid is watching and stop buying/allowing violent video games. It does matter.

5. Think of what you are watching on TV and in the movies. Is it violent? Is it about someone in pain? Is it fear and anxiety producing? This seems to be a theme in our society right now. (When was the last time you watched something uplifting that made you laugh? And I don't mean awkward humor or humor at the expense of someone else.) I didn't feel comfortable letting my 3 year olds watch commercials during NFL games because many of the trailers were so violent. Many kids watch this stuff unsupervised. We are becoming numb to the violence.

6. Find tools to calm your own stress. Our kids regulate their nervous system to ours. Want to know why our kids are having anxiety and stress at earlier and earlier ages? Take a look at what they are surrounded by. The best thing you can do for your kids is take steps to reduce your own stress and anxiety. Be the role model. Not sure how to do it? Reach out to someone who does. PM me for ideas. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, prayer. Do whatever works.

7. Slow down. Our kids don't need to be signed up for 3 activities a night or have another video game. They need our uninterrupted presence. And if they are too old to want to spend time with you anymore, use whatever time you have. While they are eating breakfast. While you are driving them to practice. Connect with them in any way you can, but make the time to connect.

8. Stop shaming your kids, yourself, and each other. Nothing good ever comes from someone feeling insecure, less than, or ashamed. Check out Brene Brown's work if you want to understand what shame does to someone. It's not pretty.

9. Build bridges. Lift each other up. Put a hand across the table to the neighbor, co-worker or family member with a different point of view. Remember the golden rule and what your mother taught you - "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.” Fear mongering, anxiety, name calling and finger pointing isn't working. We need to try something else.

10. When you see someone hurting or in pain, don't turn a blind eye. Not sure how to help? Find out. Ask someone, anyone. Spend your time googling about that. "Not my problem" is the easy way out. It is our problem when people that need mental health support are out in society with us and our children. This is a fellow human being. This is someone’s child. Don't turn your back on them.

Is it easy? No. But changing something like this never is. This is a societal issue at it's core, not just a gun control issue, and everyone can play a part in making it better for future generations. You can help perpetuate the problem, or be a part of the solution. What are you going to choose?

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Lose the Agenda and Find Some Peace

I had the most amazing day yesterday. I didn't cry, shout at the kids, lose my shit, or need to give myself a time-out, not even once. Does that mean everything went perfectly? Quite the opposite.

I was supposed to spend the day planning a one day retreat with two of my friends. The night before, my mom called to tell me she was sick and couldn't watch the kids. No problem. I rearranged plans and had everyone come to my house instead, figuring we'd deal with the kids somehow.

Yesterday morning, one of my friends called and had to cancel. No problem again. Reschedule for the three of us, and my other friend comes over anyway. Put a video on for my kids (don't judge me, I hate doing it too), which normally keeps them quiet for hours. Not today. Today they want to jump all over each other, fall off the couch, and continually interrupt us.

I don't know what was different about me yesterday, but with each thing that went wrong I didn't get upset. I didn't think, "my life sucks, nothing ever works out for me, I can't run a business with these kids, or why does this always happen?" (All of which are my recent go-to's when something goes "wrong.")

Nope. Each time something came up, I calmly surrendered my agenda of how things were supposed to go, and made a new plan. And do you want to know the best part? It was so much easier than fighting against the "as-is" of my life like I normally do. 

Not only did I allow myself to give up trying to control my day, I gave up the illusion that I had control in the first place, which is usually what trips me up. As I snuggled my boys last night while they drifted off to sleep, I had a big smile on my face. "Why don't I do this more often?" I wondered out loud. And then today I started freaking out as things spiraled out of control.

You win some, you lose some, and tomorrow's another day.

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Guest post - Staying Present with Kids: Tips You Haven't Heard

I love this blog post from my guest Rowan, as I often find myself struggling with the same things she talks about in this article. I really WANT to be present with my kids, there just always seems to be something (not) important vying for my attention. We all get distracted, here's some ways to come back to your kids, or any other little ones in your life. Thanks for the great ideas Rowan!

 

 

Staying Present with Kids: tips you haven't heard.

If you are a parent like me, you read a lot of parenting resources. I bet, like myself, you’ve read plenty about the importance of playing with your kids, of child led play, of being present with kids.

Here’s my problem: I space off.

I try not to, I really do. I want to stay engaged, I want my children to know they are important to me, I want them to know I appreciate their creative genius.

Even so, within a couple minutes, I find myself thinking of my to-do list, rewording blog posts I haven’t published yet, remembering the laundry slowly rotting in the washer.

But as time has passed I have come across a few tricks that really help me to stay in the present moment with my kids and give them my full attention.

Blow bubbles.

Yep, really. I have yet to meet a young child that doesn’t squeal with glee jumping in a cloud of bubbles. Here’s what it does for me: it encourages me to take slow, deep breaths. As I bring in those deep belly breaths and slowly, gently blow a long string of bubbles, my mind quiets, my body calms, and my attention narrows to my kids in front of me. And there’s a bonus: being present with their joy brings me joy.

Walk a baby to sleep.

Ok, so my baby, Brie, is not a baby anymore. Brie is 22 months and we are transitioning from walking them to sleep and laying down with them until they fall asleep. They still love it though and if it didn’t hurt my back so much, I’d probably indulge in this routine forever.

There are still times that I space off, especially when it’s a late night and I’m thinking about how much I want them to just fall asleep already. But I bring myself back by using our laps around the living room as a walking meditation. I pace my breathing with my steps - breathe in with two steps, breathe out with two steps - then increase the number of steps per breath until I have calm, long, deep belly breaths. My mind quiets, my body calms, and I am here with Brie as we stare into eachothers eyes, as I feel the weight of their body in my arms, as they grin contentedly while they gently drift off. These are moments I cherish.

Walk a toddlers pace.

Boy it is so easy for me to just pick Brie up and encourage Avery, my 3 year old, to pick up the pace. But really, why do I have to be in such a hurry all the time? Granted, there are times that it is warranted, but most of the time it is ok to just slow down. I try to remember to intentionally walk with my children, at the youngest’s pace. By slowing my body it is easier to slow my mind, and then my world opens in a way that still always surprises me. The smooth rocks Avery finds and slips in her pockets, the bug Brie notices and crouches down to peer at, the red and orange leaves crunching under our boots - none of these I would have been aware of if I hadn’t taken the moment to slow down and walk at my toddler’s pace.

Color with your non-dominant hand.

This mostly works because it has been instilled in us to color within the lines and it simply takes more focused attention to do this with a non-dominant hand. But the extra effort is worth it because it better enables us to keep attention on the kid coloring beside us. It helps us notice the way they suck in their lower lip when they concentrate, the way they put so much weight on their left elbow on the table, that they use their right hand to brush hair out of their face, that their curls seem to be growing a mile a minute.

What about you? I would love to hear about ways you stay present with your little ones.

You can learn more from Rowan at activistparenting.com

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