Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Peace and Protect: Don't Back Down

Our next generation is watching what is happening and they have questions,
most recently about the Orlando shooting. What do we say?

I use to think a two year old asked a lot of questions, but at least I knew the answers to them. As my kiddos get older I am finding that they ask more questions that I often don't know the answers to.

Most recently is this week, why did a man go into a dance club and shoot people? How come he was so mad? Did he know them? Am I going to get shot at my dance studio? Did he die? What happened to those families? Where did he get the gun?

As a parent and educator, I have been through countless hours of safety training, have had experiences with lock downs, drills, and intruder alerts.  I've had to research best practices about being proactive or reactive when there is danger. I have discussed with parents, teachers and students on how to handle scary situations and what to do to prevent them. However, nothing can fully prepare you for a school, church or club shooting. I do feel it is incredibly important that our youth feel safe: physically, emotionally, mentally and so on. We know that protecting them from harm and fostering peace in the classroom, community and especially at home is imperative.

How do both get taught together? When we protect others: we shield them, defend them, keep them from harm. It is an active role that requires one person to build a secure environment 24/7 which could involve some violent act. Teaching and promoting peace means to provide a calm, restful, and quiet place in a nonviolent way. It appears to be utopian, ironic and impossible.

But it is possible and here are some tips on how...

1. Take the time to talk:  Being proactive is very helpful when approaching difficult topics with kids. They may not ask questions, so letting them know what happened before they hear it elsewhere is ideal. It preps them for what could be the unknown. Depending on the ages of your kids or youth you are around, you will know how much to share. But, the bottom line is, let them know what is going on. They should hear it from a trusted adult they know, that first hand from another child or TV newscaster.

2. There ain't no easy way out...  Shootings, killings, act of violence are hard to explain and understand. Giving simple facts about what you know about the situation is key. The shooter was bullied, or mentally ill, perhaps on some drugs...whatever the situation. It's crazy and scary to kids to hear that someone randomly kills someone else.  Limiting exposure to media is what many psychologists suggest. Research shows that kids often think the act is reoccurring when they watch it over through social media and it becomes a constant reminder that they may not be safe themselves.

3. Gonna stand my ground: Every family has an opinion on gun control or freedom to bear arms.  Every family has an opinion of what protection means for them or what peace means for others. Talk to your kids about how you feel and WHY.  Explain to your kids that other families will have other opinions and WHY. Educating our youth on the issues and each side is how we can actually protect them and promote peace. Understanding and accepting different points of view is what actually can bring us together.

4. Stand me up at the gates of hell: In this age of technology, we are exposed to many dangerous situations.  Yet, many of us are closed off to what is really going on around us as we look down and are glued to our devices.  Kids are no different. The shootings, the bullying, the violence and the stranger danger are sickening, saddening and down right psychotic. Keep reminding them to put their phones away, look around, be observant, talk to each in the moment.  Encourage them to notice any warning signs and report them immediately. Here are some helpful sites to get the conversation started:


5. In a world that keeps on pushing me around: Remind kids they are loved, remind them that even people that have different opinions need love, remind them that it's ok to stick up for themselves. Most importantly, keep reassuring them that you will do what you feel is right to protect them and keep them safe. We need to live out of love, not fear. Studies show fearful people have anxiety, depression and personality disorders.  Peaceful people have a more fulfilled and enlightened life. They are more aware of the world and emotionally stable. 

This is an opportunity to explain how your family can cope with and discuss these types of issues. It doesn't help to place blame on others nor draw attention to the person who committed the horrendous crime. It's an opportunity to feel sympathy for the victims and their families, to help your kids/students understand, or at least talk through their own concerns.

Let's raise our youth to be more aware of the world around them and find ways to protect and promote peace. Don't back down when it comes to helping our next generation.