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Before the Tragedy: The Work We Must Do with Children Right Now

Dear Sweet friend,

How do you make sense of a senseless act?

When 17 people, students and staff, are killed in and around their school, a place typically regarded as a safe haven for those who attend, how can we explain it to children? How do we explain it to ourselves?

I’ve written several articles on how to talk to kids when bad things happen (like here and here). But we’ve gotten to a point when there is much more to the discussion that dealing with the aftermath, don’t you think? I would imagine you would agree, we need to turn our attention to what’s going on with our children these days that is laying the groundwork for such tragedies to occur.

We need to turn our attention to what’s going on with our #children these days that is laying the groundwork for such tragedies to occur. #ParklandSchoolShooting Click To Tweet
  • Mental Instability and the need for help: It’s easy for people to point to a killer and simply say, “he is mentally disturbed.” And yes, there are clearly mental issues happening here–chemical imbalances that need to be addressed. But what does this really tell us? What we need to take in is the fact that many people who have mental issues were once children or teens who needed help. Perhaps they needed counseling, medication or more. This is not something people can wish away- mental illness must be considered and treated appropriately when we see it.
  • Lack of empathy: I interviewed internationally adored, educational psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba, for my most recent podcast and she talks a great deal about the lack of empathy as a precursor for future violence. When we can’t put ourselves in someone else’s position and feel how they feel in that moment, our behavior can become cruel and unfeeling. What does this tell us? It says that we must make working on empathy and other key powerful words with children a priority. Helping children identify their own feelings, read the faces and body language of others, predict future actions based on their behaviors and repair damage done is vital. We can’t only attend to academics. Character and whole-heartedness must be on our daily agenda too.
  • Isolation and a need for a mentor: When I present to parents, educators or other adults who work with children, I often talk about the youth development research. One sobering statistic from a study done with Search Institute said that the majority of young people feel that they don’t have at least 3 adults to turn to in a time of need or challenge. What’s more is that many young people don’t feel that adults understand them or that adults can give them bad advice or leave them scrambling on their own when the advice doesn’t work. We need to help make things better, not worse. What does this tell us? It means that young people need us. They need us to take an interest, to listen, if asked for- they might need advice, but ultimately, they need someone to care for the long haul. Let’s be one of the three.
  • Seen for their faults: In today’s society, people often feel scrutinized for how they don’t measure up. They “compare and despair” as my podcast guest, Debbie Reber said, which can only serve to make them feel like they can never be enough. One of the issues I often discuss in my presentation Be a Strength Finder, Not a Fault Finder is that often our labels (whether self-imposed or given by others) can define us and lock us into a negative state of being. “I am ugly…I am lazy…I am stupid…I am a bad kid…I will never amount to anything” – these become repeated mantras that don’t only play with our minds but guide our actions. They become self-fulfilling prophecies. So what does this tell us? It says that while we need to provide guidance and corrections for our children, we also must illuminate their strengths. We need to tell them of the gifts we see in them and in others—and hold a mirror up to them so that they can see themselves for what they bring to the table. When we lead with strengths, they guide us forward. When we lead with faults, they hold us back.
When we lead with strengths, they guide us forward. When we lead with faults, they hold us back. Click To Tweet

We are shocked, or tragically, perhaps not as shocked now, when school shootings occur. In the moment, it is so jarring and we feel like there is nothing we can do. Thoughts and prayers are lovely but they don’t address the issues. The actions we must take are ones that happen in the years before the shooting. And that means, let’s start on it now.

  • Get children mental help when they need it.
  • Do social skills training with kids who are lacking in empathy.
  • Be a mentor or help find a mentor for children who can use some guidance.
  • See children for their strengths, not simply for what they lack.

These are small things that make a big difference. And lord knows, we need a difference right now.

Xoxo

Double the Fun! Two New Podcasts Out on Empathy and the Death of a Pet

Good morning! Aren’t Tuesdays fun?

For one thing, they aren’t Mondays—and for another, another episode of How to Talk to Kids about Anything is available! And you know what? THIS Tuesday is double the fun because we have TWO episodes available for you as an extra bit of love for you this week.

***First, we have How to Talk to Kids about Empathy and Entitlement by the amazing best-selling author & Today Show contributor, Dr. Michele Borba.

Based on her new book (softcover version out TODAY!), UnSelfie, Michele provides us with outstanding tips and scripts to raise empathetic, caring kids in an “all-about me” world. Michele has traveled widely and studied this topic for years—you don’t want to miss it!

“Once you realize you can nurture empathy, that our children are hardwired for it, you’ll look for dozens of just simple little daily moments to weave it in, take it up, and let your children know it matters. That’s how we produce a better generation of kids: A group of children who are unselfies, who think we, not me.” ~Dr. Michele Borba

***And, as a bonus, for anyone who has a pet or is suffering from pet-loss grief, we have How to Talk to Kids about the Death of a Pet. Best-selling author, Wendy Van de Poll, provides tips to help adults know how to help a child grieve when a pet dies as well as what to say to a child when a pet is sick and death is imminent. She also provides ways to help support a child in moving forward to engage in positive memories to help heal the grief.

The relationships that children have with animals are purely magical.” ~Wendy Van de Poll

You can get any of the podcasts on my website as well as on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcast delivery sites.

I can’t wait to hear what you think! And if you love this episode like I did, it would be so awesome to have you subscribe, rate and review it on iTunes so that others learn all about it. And please, feel free to share it!

Happy Listening!

How to talk to Kids about Empathy and Entitlement with Dr. Michele Borba

Special Guest: Dr. Michele Borba

This podcast provides:

Tips:
How to build empathy in your child
Cultivate 9 habits of empathy such as perspective-taking & self-regulation
Use a baby in the family, a puppy, movies, Facetime to help understand and learn emotion literacy.
How to build the “kind mindset”
The 4 tips navy SEALS are using.
How service can help build altruistic children- match your child’s passion.
Look for moments to talk about feelings and empathy.
Modeling empathy for children.
Family meeting: How do we want to be remembered?
Developing a family motto that supports empathy
Empathy can be nurtured- weave it into daily moments.

Scripts:
What to say when a child is unkind to someone.
What to say when you see empathy in action.
Using the two-kind rule at your dinner table.