It is with a heavy heart that I reach out to each one of you tonight to share some reflections on yet another tragic school shooting in our country, this time right here in our own community. My note tonight is meant to spark a conversation on how we can help our emerging young adults feel safe and secure. Tonight, I want to touch upon the topic of emotional health and how we can take a small step to perhaps avert another school shooting. Please find numerous resources at the end of this note and share widely.
I thank you for reading and hope you find my thoughts valuable as your family processes the horrific events of the day in the days and weeks which follow. It is my hope that you will take action which may be as simple as letting your child know every day how much you love them and make it clear that you are indeed blessed and filled with joy when they return home each evening after a day learning and being part of their community. Home is where the heart is!
Again, I think you in advance for reading, and wish you peace in the days ahead as our community comes together.
This past Monday I had sent a weekly note to my clients which ended with the following message:
“Have an amazing week being awesome at what you do!
Please be mindful of your peers who could use an extra smile! Reach out and make a difference! “
I also started the week posting a link on my Facebook page from a NYTimes Article entitled “Should I Tell on My Cheating Classmates” and asked parents whether the conversation about this topic was one taking place at home?
Clearly, my message in these two notes is one I continue to emphasize in my practice working with young adults: it is the power of community and the importance of connections with others which allow us to lead impactful, meaningful and joyful lives. We are all responsible for one another.
Like most of you, today was to be just another day-with a twist- it was Valentine’s Day, and an added opportunity for me to let my friends and family know how much I love them. This morning I was filled with appreciation for yet another day of fabulous weather, gratitude that my nagging shoulder injury hadn’t prevented a good night’s sleep and so after finishing my breakfast, I set my plans for tasks to accomplish and made space on my calendar to unwind (Yoga) later in the day. After sending Valentine’s Day text messages: “Love you xxxooo” to my daughter in Pittsburgh and my son in San Francisco, I then paused to think about who might not be on the receiving end of a Valentine today and so I fired off a few silly but well-intentioned GIFs to a few more friends. And then, by 9:15 am, I went about my day-but in a few hours, everything changed.
From 2:50 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. I began the long wait for a response to my text messages to all my Parkland students and their parents. Was everyone safe? Who had seen something so horrific? I turned on my television and flipped through news stations and was filled with grief and I cried, my stomach hurt. I saw children being marched out of their school hands in the air and assault weapons pointed at them. I waited as one-by-one I heard from a parent, a student or sibling that everyone I knew personally was safe. One student was still un-united with her family as she was among the last to evacuate and I was feeling the pain of my Parkland friend. I called friends to talk, and Facebook flooded-outrage – this happened again?! But this time, I knew students who were in the midst of it all. Everyone being sent my note tonight is but one degree of separation from a child and a teacher who today on Valentine’s Day 2018 was killed by another deeply troubled young person.
Friends, there have been a dozen school shootings in 2018 alone and too many to count the past decade. I have no comments on gun control. My comments are about our young people and how we find ourselves in this situation yet again and again and again?!
From my perspective working with several thousand students over a thirty-year career, I know that young adults need lots more than we are providing! As a Cornell University professional, I was trained to recognize a young adult potentially in need of help. I trained the trainers-students and resident assistants, and I learned to have a watchful eye for not just the stress of final exams, or another boyfriend break-up – but for the signs of deep-distress that fester from repeated bullying, from social isolation, from grief, domestic violence, sexual harassment, drug abuse and perhaps from emotional illness.
Our students are under an enormous amount of stress – and this isn’t the time or place to discuss the origin of that stress. But I cannot overstate how important it is for your child to feel safe at home and knowing that they are able to make the changes and take steps to reduce their stress with all of your support.
The message I want to reinforce tonight isn’t one that is new to readers of my newsletters, blogs and Facebook ads. I will write it again loud and clear: Middle and High School students need to lead a joyful and meaningful life filled with experiences that enable them to explore and discover who they are, and how they can lead an impactful life – connecting with others within their community.
Our role as parents, educators and friends is to help anyone in need. Adults and children send signals and cries for assistance. Teach your child that we live in one community where we are all connected through others’ joy and sadly, as we see today, we are now all connected by another avoidable tragedy.
What can you do?
– Express and show your gratitude and love for each member of your family OFTEN.
– Read the signs-sustained behavioral and mood changes may require professional help.
– Have conversations about how we can be aware of others in need – including those we know personally and strangers within our community.
– Encourage your child to alert you, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a physician, me, any trusted adult should they become aware that someone they know is hurting and in pain, being abused, or bullied.
At school and within your community:
– Volunteer your time to a worthy community cause thus allowing your “empathy” muscle to strengthen.
– Connect with others. Your service hours should make a difference and build character and an appreciation for how we are all connected.
– Treat everyone with respect and kindness-even the bad driver who just cut you off! You have no idea what personal distractions are filling their head!
– Look around-smile at someone new EVERY DAY. Invite someone to sit at your lunch table.
– Are you in earshot of a disgraceful insult that marginalizes someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or just some unfashionable shirt- -? Speak up – don’t allow someone to make another feel small – so small, that eventually their self-worth has been stripped away.
Peace to everyone over the days and weeks ahead. We are all in pain.
With the utmost of gratitude for your time this evening and apologies for typos – I just don’t don’t have the strength to correct any that remain.
Hugs to all of you,
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 800 273 8255
Available 24 hours everyday
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Palm Beaches
561 533 9699
National Sexual Abuse Hotline
800 656 HOPE (4673)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800 799 7233