Sandy Hook in Newtown and What’s Next
As a parent, I found the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School terrifying. I suppose the natural reaction after processing this is to 1) realize that it could happen anywhere including my school and 2) try to figure out a way to prevent it. And there in lies the rub. Because you can’t prevent this. Sandy Hook Elementary School had locked doors and a metal detector system.
My school district is buzzing around new procedures including locked doors. It’s going to be a huge inconvenience to the school’s front desk administration and parents who need to get their kids for medical appointments. And it’s not going to stop someone with the firepower to blow through the door (which is not bullet proof).
Last week, my kids’ elementary school had a “lock down.” There is a thief that has been robbing houses near our school and he hit a house on the same street. One adult in the neighborhood thought that he was armed. The police came to our school and helped to lock it down in case the suspect fled and tried to hide in the school. All the doors were locked. Kids were locked in their classrooms and the all the school’s entrances were locked.
My son in second grade didn’t seem affected by it but the my daughter’s fifth grade class were terrified. Many of the kids thought they were about to experience the Newtown tragedy. Some fifth graders cried during the lockdown. Others were just scared. We’ve all tried to shield our kids from details of Sandy Hook but it seems that fifth graders are worldly and resourceful. Many have iPhones with internet access.
Even though Sandy Hook was a month ago, the tragedy still resonates. We are all affected. There is now a universal fear that this could happen again. In our town. To our children.
I found some posts on the internet that were comforting and made sense to me. I’m not Buddhist, by the way, but my mother is.
I want to live in a country where the rights of children are more important than the rights of the gun lobby.
People do not need automatic weapons that fire hundreds of bullets in a minute to hunt or even to defend themselves. We will always have guns in our country. We need some common sense laws that protect people who are defenseless. I do not want armed guards standing at the door of the school I work at. I want all children to feel valued and safe.
I want to this for myself and my kids too. To get stricter gun control laws in the United States, write to your congressmen and senators. Here’s A Guide to Contacting Lawmakers. Our kids started a petition asking for stricter gun control that they are trying to get their friends to sign.
For all of you children who lost your lives and may now be wandering terrified and confused, I share your suffering with you. In return, I offer you my peace.
Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your peace.
For all of you parents who lost your children, I share your unspeakable suffering. May I take even the tiniest bit of your sorrow and rage into my own heart to relieve you of it. In return, I send you my strength.
Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your strength.
For all of you children who lived through this horrific day, I share your suffering with you. May I take in your fear and your nightmares. In return, I send you my bravery.
Breathe in their suffering. Breathe out your bravery.
PickyKidPix and I have been reading an advanced picture book on World Religions by Mary Pope Osborne of the Magic Treehouse series. It turns out that she was a religion major in college. Buddhists believe that life is suffering. The flip side, though, is to appreciate what you have and to realize and let go of the idea that you have control over what happens in the world. Can we as parents prevent terrible things from happening to our children like the Sandy Hook tragedy. Sadly, we can not. Letting go of that desire to control the unknown is scary but liberating and makes me appreciate each day that my kids are healthy, safe and happy.
One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship by Mary Pope Osborne
Research Show Violent Media Do Not Cause Violent Behavior from my hospital Massachusetts General Hospital (A Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital)
- There are a small percentage of youth, perhaps 5% who are at risk of engaging in violent behavior.
- Analyses of school shooting incidents from the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime do not support a link between violent games and real world attacks.
- Researchers also found that parent involvement and parent/peer support seemed to be protective of these negative behaviors.
- There seems to be a greater effect on younger children who cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. It also appears that when violence is coupled with an attractive movie star and combined with sexuality, the impact appears to be stronger.
The bottom line is that for violent movies and video games, we just do not know the relationship between viewing or playing and aggression in the real world. Research to date does not inform us. But we should be concerned and wary of risks. It is a good idea to limit violent games for kids? Of course it is.
I’m also going to focus on teaching my kids the sanctity of life by simply not letting them kill insects and spiders gratuitously and needlessly. Instead, I am going to rescue beetles, insects and spiders and release them outside. I think it starts in baby steps. (I am, however, going to kill flies, ticks and mosquitoes in my house. Insects that spread dangerous diseases is where I draw the line.)
Advice for Parents
Here are some tips for parents when they consider their kids video game playing and movie watching:
- Know your kids! If you child is impulsive, aggressive or excessively angry, it may not be wise to allow violent games. If their behavior tends to soften after playing, it may be helping in some manner. By the same token, a fearful, anxious child should refrain from playing games or seeing movies that are filled with horror. Never make your children watch something that they’re afraid to watch.
- Sound and supportive relationships with family and peers appear to be protective against violent behavior. Remember that well-adjusted teens are less likely to be at risk.
- Know what your kids are playing and watching. Play the game with your kid to see what the game delivers in terms of content. Watch TV and movies with them and watch for their reaction. For school-age kids and teenagers, use this as an opportunity to talk with them about their reactions to what they see and the impact on them. It is always good to start such discussions early in a child’s life, and keep this an ongoing open dialogue.
- Keep an eye on what is developmentally appropriate. Younger kids (or immature children at any age), who cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, should not be allowed to watch violent movies, cartoons, or play violent video games.
- Set guidelines about the amount of time kids can play, and be sure that other activities, such as playing with friends, time with family, etc., provide a good balance.
- Review information about the ratings and content of games at the following sites: Commonsense Media, The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, GetNetWise
For more information, click here to read Dr. Gene Beresin’s post in Psychology Today.
Now that we’ve all had a few weeks to process Sandy Hook, I’d love to hear how you are dealing with it and what, if anything, you are doing. Please share!
p.s. If you want to help Sandy Hook victims, here’s how from CNN.
An official fund for victims’ families, and the community as a whole, has now been established: The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut will provide support services to families and the community. All donations to this fund will go directly to those affected.