I was thinking the other day about how different kids' exposure to violence is now compared to when I was little. I graduated from high school in 2000. There were a few school shootings when I was in high school but the only one I heard of during that time was Columbine. Thinking back, there are only a few other big instances of violence I really remember hearing about (Oklahoma bombing being a big one because we happened to have a half day of school that day so we heard about it on the radio). The internet has changed our access to news so we hear about things more quickly but mass shootings and acts of terrorism have also increased dramatically. I was going to include a link to show this to be true but I couldn't decide on which article as many include varying politics but if you google incident of mass shootings from 1990s compared to 2010s you will find a numerous articles. I'm not writing to talk about why this is or what should be done to stop it. My concern is what the effect is having on the children, adolescents, and teens growing up with this violence as the norm. Just me writing "as the norm" is the problem. My children are growing up with horrible violence as the norm. Going to the movies, a concert, even church are not safe. I realize that there are people in the world that have never lived in a safe, comfortable country. That saddens me. But America is a democratic, free country where this should not occur. But it is. So how is it effecting our kids?
This is just my opinion, but I feel it is creating a generation that will have less empathy. As each horrible tragedy occurs, youth (and probably many adults) start to be less shocked, less outraged, less saddened. They are becoming desensitized to these events. They hear about the events or read bits and pieces of them but do not really connect to them. It is just another story.
We have to fight this. I don't want our youth to walk around scared in our world but I do want them to be concerned about what is going on in the world. When tragedy strikes, talk with your kids about ways your family can help. You can donate money, goods, food, etc to a cause. Write a letter to a survivor. Organize a bake sale or a lemonade stand. Empower our children to help those they do not know. This not only helps them connect with those effected by the tragedies but it teaches them to be kind which I teach my children is the most important thing to be.
Time To Be Silly
Recently I was walking around Six Flags with my husband, older sister, and eight children ranging from age 3 to thirteen. We could hear music playing and I started to dance. I then shouted out "bonus for anyone else who dances." My kids immediately started dancing. (And by dancing I meaning wiggling our shoulders, kicking our legs, moving our hips-no "real" dance moves). One of my nephews asked what the bonus was while some of his siblings started dancing too. My sister and husband joined in. While still dancing, I explained there is no real bonus but fun. He laughed and did not join in. I guarantee we looked silly but we were having fun. That was the point. Sometimes, we need to be silly and have fun.
I have a lot of clients that struggle with anxiety. One of my intake questions is what do they do for fun. I am shocked by how many people, especially teenagers, struggle to answer this or initially state they do not have a lot of time for fun. No wonder they are anxious! We are doing ourselves and our kids a disservice by not allowing a time for fun. I don't care if we have to schedule it in, but we need to make time for it. Even if that means blocking out an hour for unstructured, unplugged (meaning no electronics) activities. I'm all for sports, music, clubs, etc but are they fun? I know many kids who participate in activities they have not thought was fun for years. I would much rather see a kid playing in a very low key, non competitive league where they have fun then in a select sport. Now if your kid loves the select sport and has fun most of the time, great. But between seasons, check in and make sure they the last season was enjoyable.
Fun should happen at school sometimes too. If your kid thinks school is horrible all the time, connect with the supports there to see if this can be improved. Not all students will love school, but everyone should find something they can enjoy there. Even if it is a club, lunchtime, or a special (Art, PE, FACS, etc).
As adults, we need to have fun too. Are we taking time to do things we enjoy? Do we have hobbies separate from our families and work? Balance is key.
And don't be afraid to just stop and dance sometimes:)
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!