With the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school, parents feel especially helpless to protect their children from violence, especially while their kids are away at school. The dialog in the media tends to focus on the guns themselves, and national policies about guns, but there are some easy and beneficial steps parents can take at home to help work through these tragic times and prepare their families for the future.
Keep in mind that none of these steps seek to directly remedy the grave problem of mass shootings in schools. Just as the problem has arisen from a multitude of indirect influences in our society, the solutions will be various and indirect. In particular, the solution will involve repairing the healthy function of families.
As much as possible, turn off the smartphones, the computers and the TVs. These devices isolate people from one another and eliminate the emotional connections we all need. In this modern age, some of us are forced to use smartphones and computers for our jobs and school work, whether we want to or not. That’s an acceptable compromise, but be careful not to extend such use for the purposes of distraction and entertainment. Many of us are addicted to social media — which is not very social — and video games, so breaking the habit can be tough. But if you want to strengthen the relationships among your family members, the first step is to reduce or even eliminate everyone’s screen time.
All good parents seek “quality time” with their kids, and in a sense this simply means spending time together not looking at screens. Spend time talking casually, but also spend time talking seriously about your kids’ struggles and dreams. Ask them what they value about their friends, and what things may bother them about other people. Try this simple conversation-starter at the end of each day: Ask them about the best thing and the worst thing that happened to them.
Spend time together outside and away from home. We talk about family life as “home life,” but no family should be restricted to existing only inside the walls of the house. Participate in sports and school activities with your kids, and re-dedicate yourself to spending the weekends doing family activities.
Get together with other families. Get in touch with the parents of your kids’ friends, if you don’t already know them, and arrange to have a BBQ at the park. You’ll learn about each other’s interests and hobbies, leading you to other group activities.
Seek normalcy in your family structure. The traditional notions of family structure have a lot going for them because they’ve stood the test of time. Is it a coincidence that school violence ramped up in recent history just as the traditional family structure broke down? Many single parents do a great job raising wonderful kids, but at the same time, they ought to seek stable relationships with partners who are interested in sharing the full parental experience. Ideally speaking, all kids need a mommy and daddy at home, and parents should strive to meet that ideal as closely as possible.
Don’t rely on school to teach your kids everything they need to know. Parents should be their kids’ greatest teacher and mentor. By all means, be friendly with your kids and have fun together, but moms should not try to be BFFs with their daughters and dads should not try to be “bros” with their sons.
Help your kids develop life skills. Cook meals with them and teach them along the way. Work around the house together. Garden together — now is the time to figure out which seeds you’re going to sow, so sit down with your kids and figure out what you want to eat come harvest time.
You might be asking how these measures specifically reduce the risk that your child or other children will be hurt by school violence. “Parents have no control over other people’s kids, so the safety concerns remain no matter how much you trust your own kids to protect themselves,” says Jonathan Marigliano, a partner at Prieto Marigliano.
The changes will happen gradually and cumulatively. As more families restore their healthy relationships, the kids’ lives outside of the home will be transformed too. Children who have a happy home life will be attracted to other kids with a similar attitude, and they’ll be cautious and concerned around those who do not. Because communication is paramount here, children, teachers and parents will all be better informed and aware of the circumstances at school. The troublesome kids will hopefully get the attention they need from everyone to help them in school and at home, thereby helping to restore the proper functioning of our society as a whole, organically.
Feature Image: huffingtonpost.com