Parents change conversations at home after tragedies
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:25AM
Parents are talking. To one another. More importantly, talking to their kids at home. And -- most importantly -- listening.
Through the tragedies of these past months, families have opened new dialog; schools and youth groups have opened more doors to support our children’s emotional health; our community has opened its heart, yet again, to comfort families whose lives will never be the same.
I asked many parents what they are talking about at home, and here’s what they offered: “Every day, we let our kids know how much they mean to us and how much we love them. As a family, we’re trying to focus more on the bigger picture of life and not worry so much about the small things. We are also keeping all teens in our prayers that they reach out to someone if they are in pain.”
“We are definitely talking more as parents and more importantly, trying to listen. Teens want to feel that what they think and say is important.”
“More than ever, we want our kids to know that they can always talk to us about anything, that home is safe. We have also discussed the fact that everyone, no matter how perfect they seem on the outside, has problems. It’s so important to realize that a random act of kindness, even a simple smile, can have a profound impact on someone’s life.”
“In our home, we’ve been talking about the fleeting impact of high school. The teen years don’t last forever. In 10 years, high school will be just a memory. New experiences will take its place. No one will care if you were popular or not, if you wore expensive clothes, got an A or an F on a test, argued with your parents, or even ended up in the Blotter. There IS life after high school. And it is good.”
“We’ve been talking at home about the importance of sharing love and kindness; it helps us forget about our own insecurities and fears. It is a win-win to offer a hug or a kind word. The other person feels better and so do you.”
“Our family time, dinners and conversations were always stressed BUT the “why” or any form of an “argument” seem less apparent. The change to more appreciation for the small things is more apparent in my kids as well.”
“I would say that my kids actually appear to be more talkative and are displaying more signs of appreciation with one another.”
“When the recent teenage tragedies occurred, each time, we were able to spend some quiet time reflecting on why these things happen, what we can do to better communicate our own worries and emotions, and how to help others we may see in despair. My kids are very spiritual. They find an amazing solace in their relationship with God and with their local faith group in our community.”
“At home, we are finding many more opportunities to talk about depression and how it can distort the value of life. We also talk a lot about suicide being a permanent solution to a sometimes temporary problem. Also, if you ever lose all of your hope that things will get better, tell an adult (then we listed all the trusted adults in their lives).”
“The focus on achievement has definitely been tempered in our home. We are more keenly aware that being in a happy mental state is more important than being in the National Honor Society in terms of kids’ well being.”
“We now have a ‘safe’ word if you feel as if the walls of life and its reality may be closing in upon you. Simply utilizing the word opens the conversation for a daily mental health ‘check-in’ from all family members. It is a phenomenal way to gauge where our hearts and heads are at on a daily basis.”
May we all continue to hold each other closely as families, parents, schools, and a community. May children and adults in pain know that many stand ready to help.
Lake Forester columnist Maria Malin can be reached