Another school shooting and our hearts clench. The image of another mother clinging to a photo of the child instantly taken from her while doing nothing more than attending school rips the hearts and strikes fear into every other parent.
While the debate will continue on gun control, that’s not the discussion I want to have because I think there is something much more pressing that every mother needs to do. Prepare your kids. In every part of their lives, it is our job to prepare them. The thought of having this be a conversation required to raise children today seems almost outrageous. But we have to face our current reality, so it is one we unquestionably need to have.
It’s time to teach our kids to do two things:
One is to be ready for the fight.
The second is to love the unlovely, so the fight never comes.
There is a line in a song by Cameron James that I resonate with, “I wasn’t looking for a fight, but the fight found me.” How many times in life have we found ourselves in a fight we weren’t expecting? Our children will as well, so we need to teach them how to survive and fight back when necessary.
The year terrorists attacked our country, my elder daughter lived in Los Angeles. The speculation was that if there were another attack, it would be in a major city to create maximum destruction. What location would fit that criterion better than Los Angeles? I took it upon myself to discuss preparations. What would she need if…? She created what we called her “terrorist bag” and stuck it in her trunk. That may sound crazy, but if there were a power outage, long lines to leave the city, no opportunity to go back home, and if transportation hubs were closed, what would you need?
How to Prepare for the Fight
Kids today need to know what they need should this horrific event happen in their schools. It should begin with a preventative discussion not only with their teachers or school officials but with their friends as well. Find out if there is a crisis plan in place. If there is, get it and review it. Talk with them about the safest place to be, as well as the most vulnerable locations in their school. Review the steps they should take with a teacher present, and ones they should take if there is no teacher there. Ask questions: How do they think they would react? What would they do? What should they do?
Find a self-defense class in your community and enroll them. Many police departments offer training or provide information that can help as well. The training they provide may not be applicable to a school shooting scenario, but it will give your children confidence in their ability in many situations to be able to handle the fight when the fight comes to them. It will also help them with the mindset they need should that day arise.
How to Love the Unlovely
Have the conversation of facing the fight and finding the best escape route, but also take the time for the second needed discussion. One of the most consistent themes in every one of these events that take place is that the perpetrator is a lost, disenfranchised, and an emotionally disturbed individual.
In this discussion, there are things your child should know. They have an opportunity to be an emotional relief valve. They can’t fix someone who is lost and lonely, but they can offer them compassion. They can intervene in the bullying; they can offer kindness and understanding to those who often don’t receive it elsewhere.
They also have the opportunity to tell if they know of someone who is at their breaking point. One who is saying things that, if executed, will lead to disaster. They may be indicating thoughts and feelings verbally or on social media. An adult needs to know this. Whether it is you, a teacher, principal, or law enforcement official, it is vital to tell.
As much as we don’t want to have this conversation with our children, it is a conversation that applies in so many areas of life. Learning to face fear, challenges, and unexpected, terrifying life situations is vital to successful living.
Standing for and loving those who are hurting, disenfranchised, and those in need of defending is a powerful part of a purposeful and fulfilling life.
As we grieve for those who are facing another tragedy, holding them in our hearts and prayers today and every day hereafter, become proactive with your kids. Make sure they are prepared, not looking for a fight, any fight, but be ready if one finds them.
For more like this, we recommend:
How to Provide Comfort for Your Children in Uncertain Times
Surviving the Shadowlands of Teen Suicide
How Can We Be the Bridge to This Great Divide?
Taking Heart, Even When Tragedy Hits
How to Talk to a Child About Family Problems
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