Thankfully, discussions on how to prevent tragedies such as Newtown, Conn. are filling the media and political arena. Debates will be heated and action will be painstakingly slow. You can wait for research to be done, debates to be held and laws to be passed or you can take action now in the place it matters most… with your own family.
If every family in America embraced change within their own family the likelihood of another senseless tragedy could be reduced. We can start a grass roots movement that will be as powerful as any legislation that can be passed.
1. Securely store any guns kept in the home. The guns Adam Lanza used to kill 27 people were registered in his mother’s name. Clearly, Adam has access to those guns. If you have guns in your home they must be in a locked gun safe. Only adults should know how to unlock the safe.
2. Limit or curtail viewing of violent TV shows, movies and video games in your home. The average American child views nearly 1,000 TV murders each year. What good comes from this? Is it necessary for your child to simulate shooting human beings in games such as “Call of Duty,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mortal Kombat?” Although direct correlations between shooting rampages and violent media are scant, can we agree that it perpetuates a culture of violence in America that is unparalleled in Western countries? Violence is glorified as “entertainment” and Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite for media violence. The latest “Call of Duty” earned over $1billion in sales within two weeks of its release. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.” Watching violent shows is also linked with having less empathy toward others. Clearly, the shooters in Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, and other sites did not see their victims as caring, loving human beings whose loss would devastate all who knew them. The University of Michigan Health System site has a thorough summary of media viewing and its effects on children and I highly recommend you visit this site: http://www.med.umich.edu/
3. Prohibit physical aggression in your family. Assailants find violence as a solution to a problem. From a young age, teach your kids that physical aggression and violence is never a solution to a problem. When children learn peaceful means of solving problems and practice using them every day they will transfer those skills to other relationships and will learn conflict resolution and negotiation skills. If every family in America steadfastly prohibited hitting, kicking, and shoving among siblings and curtailed any form of physical aggression toward their children and spouse, violence would become unthinkable.
4. Be an approachable parent. When your child feels hurt, lonely, disappointed, angry, jealous or even full of rage, you want to be a parent who listens, doesn’t judge, shows empathy, and helps your child work through strong feelings in a peaceful manner. None of these killers turned to their parents to share their rage. They turned to guns.
5. Know the warning signs of mental illness. A parent’s instincts are often right. You can sense if your child is out of synch with peers. A depressed child may socially isolate him/herself, lose interest in prior activities, have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much, exhibit hair-trigger anger responses, have shifts in eating patterns, or express thoughts of self-hatred or self-harm. A teenager with schizophrenia may temporarily lose touch with reality and have great difficulty with interpersonal relationships, general functioning and self-care. A child with anti-social behavior lacks empathy for others and consistently places their needs above all others. Cruelty to animals is a big red flag. Mental health assessments are confidential. Treatment is covered by most health insurance plans now. Seek help for your child so their quality of life can be optimal and get help before it’s too late. Adam Lanza reportedly left his home only on rare occasions for the last two years. This indicates a decline in his mental health. It does not appear that his parents sought help for Adam. Instead, one of the most horrific crimes in our history was committed.
6. Curtail bullying behaviors. You must monitor your child’s behavior toward other children in-person and on-line demanding that name calling, taunts, threats, social isolation and mean-spirited gossip be stopped. Some of the assailants of school massacres were targets of bullying who took their sense of powerlessness and transferred it to the supreme power of slaughtering innocent people in revenge. Schools, of course, must partner in the elimination of emotional and physical aggression of children at school.
7. Mentor a child. Not every child is blessed with a happy, healthy family. Positive attention from even one caring adult can make a significant difference in a young adult’s life. Consider mentoring a child so every child can feel valued and cared for. Working together at a micro-level in our own homes will make a difference. One family at a time, we can make progress in becoming a peaceful nation where children can go to school and come home safely each day.
This article was brought to you by Families First Coaching, Copyright 2012: www.familiesfirstcoaching.com