I’m sure your heart sank, as mine did, to see another school shooting last week. It’s the 5th school shooting in the US in 2019. A mass shooting is always a shock, and at the same time, there’s a numbness because it’s happened so many times before.
Which begs the question: What do we say to kids?
If your children are not yet adolescents, let this be a bad thing in a far off place. It’s more important to shield them and protect kids’ sense of safety than to accurately inform them about this aspect of the world. It’s probably best not to tell them about it at all. If your child has heard about this shooting, I give you permission to tell them that it won’t happen to them at their school.
Adolescents, however, can handle it. They’re ready to be treated more like adults, ready to read and engage with the news and civic policy. They’d bristle if we treated them like the younger kids.
Let teens watch or read the news and lay it at their feet: What are we going to do about this? Help them plan a course of action. Encourage teens to join the gun control movement, to use their social media accounts for good. Support their efforts to make their school a safer place, both mentally and physically.
Then there’s us. What do WE do?
We do what we can. Support a cause, be an activist, donate. Talk with the teens, encourage them to step up and to lead. Mostly though, we practice being kind with each other, especially with our kids.
Kindness is no small thing. The quiet we feel in the wake of a tragedy, that tenderness, that’s our strength and hope.
I’m so grateful for your simple efforts, your everyday kindness towards the people in your life. It might seem small, but in that gentleness is incredible strength, and that’s how we will overcome.
Thank you for being the involved attuned parent, who listens to your child’s upsets and heals their wounds.
Thank you for leaning hard towards understanding and patience, and away from punishment.
Thank you for communicating calmly and assertively, holding limits firmly, modeling how to navigate a conflict using words not violence.
Thank you for accepting diversity, making space for people of all abilities, backgrounds, and orientations.
Every time you spend quality time with your child, choosing to meet their psychological needs rather than stew in adult concerns, you invest in a healthier next generation.
Every time you restrain your own harsh reaction, you contribute to a better world.
Every time you explain another person’s point of view, helping your child accept and understand people different from them, you create a more peaceful world.
Every time you demonstrate respect for others and require that your child does the same, you shift our future towards love and away from hate.
In the small everyday acts of parenting, you nurture a young person who will become part of the solution, a participant and a leader in a more sustainable and peaceful society.
You are already the change you wish to see in the world. The work we do is incredibly powerful, and these upsets do not derail our course.
Take heart. Know that you’re part of the solution.
In support of you,