The talk of gun violence is is everywhere. It needs to be. Protecting our kids from an uncomfortable topic is also something parents are discussing. What parents should be doing on this touchy subject is recognizing the opportunity of discussion it presents. Ask kids what questions come up for them? Middle Schoolers have heard it. Why do citizens have access to guns? Why do they feel compelled to reach for a gun? What would you do if you felt that kind of desperation and asked yourself-"where can I get a gun?" Who would you tell this to? Why are we not taking it one step further and schooling our own kids on coping skills? When if feels like life has dealt you more than you can deal with, what would you do? Do your kids witness you practicing good coping?
It's a personal choice and a delicate one. Do you talk about the shooting or turn the channel? Do you reiterate that most people are morally good and let them sleep peacefully at night. Do you "burden" them with rhetorical questions? "What if you friend pulled you aside and showed you what his dad has tucked away in his den next to his fishing poles? What surprises me with potential solutions; more guns, limited access, higher standards in policing gun shows, limiting access to high capacity ammunition, tracking potential criminals better- we haven't yet addressed the topic of why reaching for a gun is such a common means of coping?
As a society I often wonder why a pg 13 rating for nudity is unacceptable but gun violence seems to be more tolerated? Perhaps you don't have a gun, but like other moms you allow MATURE ratings in the house because they will go to their friends house anyway. Do you talk about the difference in cyber shooting and real shooting? Do you talk about what it feels like cornering imaginary snipers and blowing them away? If you aren't conflicted as a parent, you aren't paying attention. We model our values daily whether we know it or not. If you don't react by saying I think I feel better allowing sports and music videos after all the gun controversy, how can you be parenting from an honest place?
Perhaps you're waiting for this topic to sting less? It's better not to parent from an emotionally charged place. It would be a normal reaction to watch children gunned down and throw out all video games containing guns. We need to talk about our quick judgements and how final they can be. We need to talk about the difference in shooting for sport and why it's fun or perhaps not aligning with your values? We need to talk about applying old rules to new times. When a mother struggles to connect with her son and is desperate enough to go target shooting with him to bond, did she think about the message she was sending? Did she give up on trying to relate to her own child?
A friend of mine told her family doctor "my own child's behavior freaks me out!" She suggested to her family doc she needed a counselor for her son. She had to call three times to get a referral. No one called her back. She called a third time and politely explained she was at her wits end with parenting, was stupifed by her sons daily rages and didn't know how to get him to quit violently banging his head on the wall. She mentioned they could rest assured she was a college educated middle class white woman and thankfully had money in the bank account and supports like a husband and grandma. She still insisted she speak to the manager to get her point across that they completely shrugged off her desperate plea for help. "I could've been a child abuser, in which case my child might be dead by now." What I'm suggesting is we take this issue down to the studs. No parent should ever have the kind of disturbing epiphany, that shocking glimmer of compassion for the psychotic mom who drove her three kids into the lake. Never. They should always have programmed into their phone, the person who will be there, no matter the hour, to best soothe a weary parent off the cliff and hear her out.
I'm suggesting, the modern day family, set their coping fire escape plan. Have a buzz word. Set down that beer, have a face to face dinner discussion, start to under book your kids activities. Stay home and play race car, play blocks, play twister, just dance to music.. Sing to Beatles Rock Band- bake a cake from scratch when you realize you forgot the neighbors birthday. Volunteer at the food bank. When you fight with your hubby over that neglected bill, model by first openly apologizing and suggesting a walk around the block to shake off the bad energy. When you had a rough week and want to pout, suggest misery loves company and invite a friend over to watch a good comedy! Start to be aware that the bad days that hurt like when you learned your friend got diagnosed with cancer-well they count too. Those are they days to rally the kids and make a big basket of muffins pack it with, Ginger Ale, tea and funny movies things that help you both cope. It's time to use these sad stories to reveal your values to your kids. Show in your daily actions how you savor the gift of life every day. Once and a while play hooky and stay home to play. Parents, start having that uncomfortable discussion from start to finish. Talk about the kid who commit suicide and how he'll NEVER eat hot donuts, pet new puppies or sing a Christmas carol again. We need to craft snowflakes with our scissors daily and reflect on the gift of being lucky enough to practice coping through, really, really rotten days. And yes, we need to make changes that tell society guns, are not our way of coping.