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?