Dear Dr. Debbie,
Gun violence in a school building is a horrific thought. That we are talking about yet “another” event, this time for the nearly 3,000 students and their teachers, staff and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is atrocious. As a parent of children I trustingly send off each school day, my concerns are foremost my children, but at the same time my heart breaks for the parents, classmates, and others who have lost family members and friends from each of these acts of indiscriminate violence.
What can be done to address the concerns of children who are too old to be protected from mass media’s headlines? What can be done to move our nation past complacency and inaction?
Don’t miss last week’s column JUUL – A New Drug Danger— Good Parenting
Dear Not Numb,
I’m with you. The National Parent-Teacher Association is with you. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association and Marian Wright Edelman, founder and director of the Children’s Defense Fund are all with you.
This has to stop.
What We Know
Perpetrators of these random acts of devastation have some common characteristics. Discussing the topic on National Public Radio a few tragedies ago, Dr. Park Dietz, forensic psychiatrist and criminologist, and Roger Depue, former chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavior Science Unit, relayed that anger problems and a fascination with weapons can be part of a pattern of behavior. Not every angry individual nor everyone who reads up on firearms is a threat. However, psychological issues, a predisposition toward violence, and access to guns can turn a fantasy into a shattering reality. Alas a gunman may also be socially isolated, so dubious patterns of behavior may not be pieced together by an observer. Even so, these experts suggest that by the time a person has started expressing threats of violent actions, he may already be well into planning how to carry them out.
What We Can Do
Writing for the American Psychological Association, Ronald S. Palomares, Ph.D. and Lynn F. Bufka, Ph.D. suggest that parents and other caring adults have an important role to play for children as we struggle to cope with the violence in our world.
1. Start the Conversation . . . and Listen
Use opportunities – in the car, doing chores together, at bedtime – to coax out a child’s concerns about the wider world or events and individuals in his own circles. Be ready to clarify misinformation and to remind him, with a hug if appropriate, that you are a resource for comfort, safety, and support. And share his disturbing reports about his peers with the police and or school authorities.
2. Home is a Safe Place
Strive to make home a sanctuary of trust and safety. Maintain a strong value on getting along such that stress is reduced, rather than exacerbated, upon reentering the home. Enjoyable family routines are part of making home a place of belonging and peace.
3. Take News Breaks
Know your limits for absorbing the raw details and emotional interviews of this latest trauma. If you yourself are not coping with a personal loss you need to be going about the business of your daily life. This is even more important for children. Turn off the news.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Children depend on the adults in their families to carry out normal activities to get through each day. Meals, laundry, homework and bedtime routines, etc. are best carried out when the adults have been able to adequately attend to their own needs. If your child, or you, cannot tear away from the reporting, resulting in depression and or anxiety, please take advantage of the services of a mental health professional.
Taking Real Action
Past debates on gun legislation, even controversies on funding for research on the subject, have been, unfortunately, politically charged.
A new charge is rising. Douglass High School students are demanding legislative action to make their lives, and all our lives, safer.
Exercise your civic duty to contact your representative to express your support of making our country a safer place. To this end, the Parkland students will be front and center at a March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24. Those who cannot travel to D.C. can create or join in local actions on that day which could include a 17-minute walkout from schools at 10 am to honor the 17 victims.
Seventeen good reasons to demand prevention of future terror and bloodshed.
Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.
What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.