I’ve been texting with my friends all morning about safety in schools and guns and reform and mental illness and I am so so tired of doing nothing but be afraid and sad. I think we all know that this epidemic is not any one problem, but many problems. I feel slightly hopeless about congress and politics, but I know I have the power within my own home and at my boys’ school and in my community. So that’s where I am starting. No idea too small!
You guys are always amazing for crowdsourcing ideas so please share. My hope is we can all DO SOMETHING today. Remember Mothers Against Drunk Drivers? They started back in 1980 and changed history and the laws that keep us safe from drunk driving today. If there’s one thing I know, a bunch of protective moms are more productive and effective than just about anything.
Image via Moms Demand Change
THINGS I CAN DO AS A PARENT:
Since this issue is not any one thing but many things, these ideas are covering a large span, bear with me.
- Talk to your kids. Not from a place fear, but education. See what they know and think. (Scroll to the bottom for ways to talk all broken down by age!)
- Evaluate the games they play and talk to them about what is appropriate in play and real life. I went through and got rid of video games and apps that are violent and use weapons in a real way because I felt like it was right for my boys. Mario Kart for life! 😉
- Have a playdate? Tell the parents if you have a gun and let them know it’s in a safe. That makes it really easy for them to return the favor. But if they don’t, ask!
- See strange behavior in your kids or your kids’ friends? If I were that mom I would want to know. And if it’s your kid:
- Don’t be afraid to get help. We’ve used child therapy and it’s been a great asset for me when I don’t have answers. It’s time to release the taboos about mental illness and to start looking for signs because I know these men in their teens and early twenties became ill long before they hurt someone else.
- Know your school’s protocol and drills. Be on the same page with them and your kids. I bet your school has a canned email with info, all you have to do is ask! @jennaskitchen wrote a letter to her principal to get this info and I am sure would send you it if you need the words.
- If you have time or resources, offer to help schools in your community. Talk to your principal and see how you can help close gaps on safety. Set up a fundraiser to get others involved (that’s where I am right now, I’ll let you know what happens with it!)
- Join groups with other likeminded parents. A text thread, a Facebook group, go to lunch. Start the conversation right now! I know of:
- Moms Demand Action (aka EveryTown) sends texts with information to call your congressmen and other events in your area. I get texts a few times a month, so don’t be afraid of getting overloaded. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram too! (This is the only one I know of but would love to hear of others!!) They also have calling system in place where you dedicate one hour a week to calling constituents if you want something more active and ongoing.
- Find an event in your area, if there’s one thing I know a group of motivated women can change the world. There is NOTHING in 100 mile radius in Utah, locals let’s talk if you are wanting to get something started here. We are contacting Moms Demand Action and are working on this for Utah County!
HOW DO I TALK TO MY KIDS ABOUT THIS?
Create a longstanding ritual of talk-time and turn all the screens off. Family dinner, bedtime, the drive to school, a daily walk, a set night out. Create this practice now and hold tight to it. So when you have something hard to talk to them about it won’t feel out of the blue and create defensiveness. It’s just part of your family culture.
ABOUT VIOLENCE or BULLYING AT SCHOOL:
Sometimes a shooting is way off a child’s radar, but bullying is not. Speak from that perspective if it feels too intense! Tips are taken from this article:
- Encourage children to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings. Some children may be hesitant to initiate such conversation, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. When talking with younger children remember to talk on their level. For example, they may not understand the term “violence” but can talk to you about being afraid or a classmate who is mean to them.
- Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence. It is important for children to recognize they are not dealing with their fears alone.
- Validate the child’s feelings. Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is why these incidents attract so much media attention. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown that schools are more secure now than ever before.
- Empower children to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.
- Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.
- Create safety plans with your child. Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of crisis during the school day. Remind your child that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.
- Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline.
- Keep the dialogue going and make school safety a common topic in family discussions rather than just a response to an immediate crisis. Open dialogue will encourage children to share their concerns.
- Seek help when necessary. If you are worried about a child’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at school or at your community mental health center.
ABOUT SCHOOL SHOOTINGS:
Have YOUR reaction away from your child. What you do effects than more than what you say. Talk to them after you’ve collected yourself.
TODAY.COM has an age-by-age guide of what today and video clips! To summarize:
Under 6: Try to focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story.
Elementary School Age: Decide what you want their take away to be and then work from there. They will see and hear many things out of your control. Feed them with the positive images, stories of heroes and brave acts along the way. Shield them as much as you can from the negative aspects, but encourage a positive narrative of events.
Tweens: See how THEY feel about it first. Focus on the person you are raising rather than the events. Hear how they see and feel and respond and coach them from there.
Teens: “Teenagers are looking for hypocrisy and solutions and this generation believes in collaboration and social justice. And they are going to ask ‘What are you doing,’” she says. “You can answer and then ask ‘what are you doing? What would you like to do? What can we do together?”
This article is really good and specific about how to handle aggression and violent play with boys.