When Violence is part of Dinner Conversation

Yesterday’s ChildGrower blog was about the Ohio school shooting and the sad and permanent choices made by immature teens.

The post was not about bullying but most readers did not hesitate to make the connection.

Though it is still unknown whether bullying played a role in the shooting deaths of (now) three students,  comments on the EmpoweringParents facebook page , which featured my post, thank you EP,   were largely focused on bullying behavior and prevention.

Bullying prevention, gun control, school safety and mental health issues and more, led as topics explored by journalists and professionals dissecting yet another violent situation we’d all like to prevent

There may never be any clear answers or causes behind this shooting – or similar shootings- but talking about it with your children, maybe over dinner, will be more effective prevention tactic than all the media coverage and school anti-bullying programs  in existence.

Social skills are grey areas.

Teens, craving both anonymity and popularity, navigate the narrow path between fitting in and flaunting their authentic self.  Someone’s difficulty connecting with classmates is another’s inability to overcome shyness.  Enormous emotional, physical and educational growth takes place for adolescents  while grouped together in one building  sometimes for as long as eight hours a day.   Effective communication skills allow everyone, and especially teens,  to navigate a world of imperfect people.

A teen, ignored or deliberately avoided, might need social skills more than bully awareness.  He or she may need extensive time with trusted adults,  like teachers, coaches or the school guidance counselor to learn and practice social skills, assertiveness and confidence.

One parent commented she is grateful her own angry teen has not taken the same path.   We worry.  But worry doesn’t accomplish much. Sometimes we have to say it out loud. We are afraid of what our angry teen might do and we are desperate to get them to talk with us and let us help them learn the skills to deal with situations that cause them pain.

Throwing in a few hugs on a daily basis will go a long way toward establishing a supportive environment but don’t wait until Junior is a teenager, start racking up the hug count early and increase as each pair of pants is outgrown.

Prevention of violence in schools

Are students part of the best solution? There’s a lot of discussion out there about classmates actively preventing bullying and even helping schools avoid situations like the one in Ohio’s campus cafeteria. Some of the current prevention strategies suggest students can recognize and report suspicious behaviors including bullying activity, violent threats, suicide hints and other mental health meltdowns.  Administrators and parents are not objecting to this new critical role for students and many are actively promoting it.

Heaping another duty on immature, irrational students,  this one a very critical responsibility, is a duty best left to professionals.

The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) recommends 250:1.  Does anyone else think one guidance counselor to 250 students is absurd?  Then be aware that in some state ratios are 450:1.  But wait, most schools, including Ohio do not have guidance counselor  mandates at all- including Ohio.

Education funding is being slashed across the nation with operating budgets decreasing for the past 10 years in my home state.  How many schools can afford to prioritize the funds needed to support the emotional needs of  hundreds of students walking, talking, maturing in real-time response to every negative and positive interactions that occurs in cafeteria’s and on playgrounds across America?

With shootings like Ohio continue to occur, how many schools can afford not to?

What can a parent do?
  • Do you know if bullying is part of the cycle of your child’s life?
  • Can you admit and address the problem if your child is the bully?
  • If your child is  a victim,  can you rely on the programs almost every school is trotting out including awareness campaigns and declaring prevention is in place while hoping results will be positive?
  • If your child is a witness to bullying does he or she have the words and the courage to do something, anything?

Despite the teenage surly appearance at times, or the constant eye-rolling and shrugging of shoulders, teens  and preteens do hear and learn from parents. You don’t have to be a guidance counselor or mental health expert to start an awareness campaign of your own.   The Family Dinner is a great place to start a tradition of exploring the national news and sharing the most important news of your teen’s day.

Many moms and dads just like you talked about it over last night’s dinner table.   Care to share what you learned?

by ChildGrower-A. Woz


Link and Think

Some of the best coverage of the these related topics are linked below.

Sharing the words of Marlo Thomas on the sad and desperate loneliness of bullied children (linked above) published by the Huffington Post on 2/29/2012.


Dr. Frank Ochberg is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University and former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Published on CNN on 2/29/2012


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