Control what you can. It’s good advice in almost any situation, particularly the one we collectively find ourselves in. While others are debating #guncontrol, I’ve decided to advocate for #ONEcontrol. None of us can control it all. None of us alone can control weapons laws and safety regulations with immediate effect. So let me inspire you to control what we can. Many of us together can make drastic changes possible, but it only takes “ONE” to make a difference today.
Offer specific help within your own sphere of influence. In the wake of Parkland, I wrote an email to all 14 of my children’s teachers. I let them each know I have prayed for them by name. I asked specific questions and asked for practical concerns they currently have. I straight up offered to make a ruckus on their behalf. If I can squawk at the school for doing things from from time to time, then I can certainly squawk up a storm for their benefit when they need me! (I have shared the email and their responses at the end of this article.) Each educator’s response reassured me, encouraged me, and strengthened my resolve to keep fighting for them. Not one of them responded with fear. They unanimously expressed confidence in their administration and the safety measures currently in place. Still, every one was grateful for my message and happy to know they can call on me now – and in the future – for personalized advocacy.
Now is the time to talk to your kids about mental health. Healthy kids need to know that mental health is as variable and unpredictable as physical health. You don’t always see a cold or a broken ankle coming. You just know that when it hits, you need to seek help. What goes on in our noggins is the same way. It can be humming along quite smoothly, but without warning the hormones washing over the brain, the stresses of daily life, or an idiopathic shift in chemistry can cause a problem. A great kid can think some nasty thoughts. A happy kid can become despondent. A normal kid can start thinking about abnormal behaviors. They might have dangerous thoughts. Be sure your child knows this won’t make them a bad person. It just means they need to speak up and get help! Don’t wait until you notice a problem and then try to convince an unwell child that you can help. Ingrain in them now that you are ready to help later when (not if) their young minds take strange journeys.
Empathy is what’s going to get us out of this mess. I’m convinced that no matter what other issues we tackle (gun problems, heart problems, parenting problems, etc), any improvement made will be rendered insufficient without the growth of empathy in our community. Empathetic people are helpers. They reach out to the hurting. They look out for the best interest of others. We need more empathetic people, people! My daughter in particular is a magnet for outcasts. Kids bring her their suicide notes, show her their cutting scars, and seek her advice; because they know she cares. But she’s 15 and can’t share their burdens alone.
A few weeks back I got a text that read, “Can you talk at 10:30 when I have lunch? I have a problem. Well, it’s not my problem, it’s someone else’s problem. But I need your advice.” I walked out of my office at 10:30 and sat in the privacy of my car waiting for her to call. This was a pre-Parkland call, but ironically a good friend of hers had been reported as threatening violence at school. She was convinced of his innocence and felt compelled to have his back. We talked about what steps the adults should be taking, what steps her friend should be taking and what she could – and more importantly, shouldn’t – try to do. Empathetic kids help others, but need help learning how to help. If you are going to encourage your kid to be kind, to befriend the lonely kid, and to care for the hurting, you need to prepare them for the realities of assisting a child in crisis and the rules of engagement for fraternizing with – let’s face it – someone who may potentially become the enemy.
I think these three steps are doable. For everyone. Three things you can take action on today. No matter your political stance, religious beliefs or gun control preferences. We can all offer specific help, assert our readiness to help our children through future struggles of the mind, and coach our kids on how to bear the burdens of others in healthy, helpful ways.
I’ll let others worry about #guncontrol. I’m getting it done over here with #ONEcontrol. Are you with me?
Here is the email I wrote, as well as responses I have received.
To all of you who invest your time and energy into our kids,
I want you to know our family is praying for you. I have prayed for each of you by name, that you have peace of mind, endurance of compassion and courage, and a renewed sense of purpose and stamina in continuing to do what you love. Our kids depend on you to be there day after day, and we appreciate you showing up to offer your best so they can be theirs.
I’d like to hear what you personally think is needed in a practical sense to improve your feelings of safety and your confidence regarding security. As many of you know, I’m not afraid to speak up and to make a ruckus when necessary for the sake of my kiddos. Do you have doors that lock from the inside? Are you empowered to take action when you know something isn’t right? Do you have adequate support & resources to address a situation where one student has concerns about another?
I will stand beside you, advocating for change at the school and county levels. I will raise my voice on your behalf, if you’d like, to ensure you aren’t screaming into the wind alone. I would be honored if you would share with us any needs you have that aren’t being met, as you face these difficult days with our children in your care.
We are grateful for you all, and we are happy to have you on our team.
Only half of them have responded, but those who did were effusively grateful. Responses include
“Wow! I can honestly say in my 14 years of teaching no one has ever asked me these questions.”
“Your letter brought tears to my eyes.”
“I do want a deadbolt soon so the room can be locked from inside.”
“The very best thing you can do for all of us is to continue to be an active member of the School Advisory Council. To show up to those meetings and voice your concerns for your daughter and your fellow parents. That is a perfect place to start to get things done.”
“Prayers are the best source of comfort and confidence.”
“Parents do have a strong voice in such matters.”