Gun Violence in America

Gun Violence in America & March for Our Lives

America had a truly historical moment on Saturday, March 24, 2018.  The March For Our Lives was led by the student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL.  There were 800,000 teens and adults who attended the March in Washington, DC.  Many more attended in cities across the U.S. to demand change in gun laws and talk about gun violence in America.

Gun Violence in America, March for Our Lives

Gun Violence in America

A March led by our minors is amazing.  Even more amazing is that they included all others affected by gun violence in America, including domestic gun violence victims, police gun violence victims, and more.  This was not just a march to stop school shootings and school violence.  They made a statement that "Enough is Enough". 

Articulate Teens

They were also incredibly articulate.  In an era when so many think children are just children, it was wonderful to see them show the world that our American children can stand up for themselves, provide valuable statistics to support their positions, and be able to address our Congressional leaders with words and action.  They are stating that when they are eligible to vote, that they will vote based on this sole cause.  Many don't believe they will follow through on their actions.  However, many don't realize that once your voice has been heard, you are a force to be reckoned with always.

Students Speak Up

Several students stood out.  Emma Gonzalez spoke and stood in silence for about 6.5 minutes to honor to victims of the Marjory Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2018.  This was less than the duration of the school's shooting.  It was symbolic of the time that students and teachers died, were injured, and were hiding in fear.  The silence was deafening and powerful.  

Samantha Fuentes, another Parkland school shooting survivor with gun wounds on both legs and shrapnel on her face stood up for herself and her friend, Nicholas Dworet, who died and would've turned 18 years old on the day of the march.  Overcome with emotion, she vomited behind the podium and persevered with her speech and led the crowd in a Happy Birthday song to her beloved dead friend.  She was courageous and empowered.  David Hogg, another survivor stated, "The people in power are shaking."  The most popular chant at the march was "Vote Them Out." 

Young Children Speak Too

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s granddaughter, 9-year-old, Yolanda Renee King, spoke as well, stating, she dreams of "a gun-free world, period." And 11 year old, Naomi Wadler, stood for the disproportionate number of black females killed by guns.  She said, "For far too long, these names ... have been just numbers. I'm here to say 'never again' for those girls, too." There are many more amazing children that made their voices heard.  Undoubtedly they are coping with tragedy in many ways.  This is their chance to cope and have an active role in shaping and owning their future.

Gun Law Changes the Students Want

The students have detailed explanations in their "Manifesto to Fix America's Gun Laws," as listed in their words, in their guest editorial in the Guardian.  These are the  nine (9) gun law changes they request, as written by the editorial staff students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas newspaper, the Eagle Eye

  1. Ban on semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds
  2. Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons (e.g. bump stocks)
  3. Establish a database for gun sales and universal background checks
  4. Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement
  5. Close the gun show loophole and loophole for second-hand gun sales
  6. Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform
  7. Raise the firearm purchase age to 21
  8. Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals
  9. Increase funding for school security

Democracy at Work

This march shows how a democracy works.  It shows that everyone can use their voice.  It has empowered many of our youth for the future.  The future is in our children.  Wait and watch because gun violence is only the beginning for these children, these future lawmakers, these activists; their future has so much more ahead!


Sandy Hook School Shooting Crisis

children, schoolThe tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, has affected us all. 

My first grader returned to school Monday.  It was a hard day for us, as it was for many parents.  Over the past weekend, Facebook had many, many parents asking each other if other people's young children knew about what happened.  Also, parents wanted to know how and what to tell their children about this national disaster.

In general, young children do not need many details. In fact, it is important to keep it simple. For example, you can say, "A bad thing happened at a school far away/nearby. A man hurt/killed some people/teachers/kids there. Some people died there. This bad thing rarely happens. Everyone is making sure that every school is super safe. Everyone is doing their best and working together to make sure that this never happens again."

Keep in mind the age of your child, their true nature (quiet vs. talkative), their natural coping style (internalization vs. outspoken).  This is especially important as each child is different.  Whereas older children may want a long discussion on this topic, small children, might only want a little bit.  Be prepared that they will likely return to the conversation at a later time.

Most important, be truthful. Children can usually tell if you are avoiding the truth.  They can also sense when something is bothering you.  They may not be able to verbalize it, but they can definitely feel it.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. Know what you can handle at any given time, on any given day.
Understand that you and your child may grieve or ask questions differently. You may not be able to have this discussion when your child wants to do so.  If that's the case, you can keep it brief.  Let them know that everyone is keeping them as safe as can be. Let them know how much you love them. Explain to them when it is a better time for you to talk about it, if you can. Remember that it's okay to have many feelings, such as anger, sadness, confusion, guilt, and more. Children may not know this. In general, it is good to remind them that it's okay to feel the way they do.

Suffice it to say, there are many excellent resources that can help you have this type of discussion with your children. My goal here is to give you some resources that you can turn to, if needed.
If you would like to learn more about helping your child cope with death in general, in the aftermath of a disaster, and in the aftermath of school shootings, I've provided several links that are truly helpful.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following articles:
"Helping Children Cope With Death", http://bit.ly/2GdncZz
"Talking to Children About Disasters", http://bit.ly/UDxXRV

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has the following audio:
"AAP Offers Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings", http://bit.ly/1zmUARo

The National Association of School Psychologists has an excellent article on helping children cope when there is a national tragedy, entitled,  "National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope", http://bit.ly/12khEQ4

National Center for Crisis and Bereavement has an article entitled, "Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff" (http://bit.ly/1k2wUaX).

My prayers and thoughts are with all who have been affected by this tragedy in Sandy Hook. There are no words that truly convey all of the emotions I have at this moment.  Never did I envision such a tragedy. This crisis at Sandy Hook has reminded me to be grateful for everything in my life. Those brave children and teachers have reminded me how much love there really is in the world. The life they lived and the love they shared reminds me to live and love. May God bless the memories of the angels of Sandy Hook, keeping them on our hearts forever.

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