The YMCA of Greater Louisville is the largest provider of child care in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and we, along with the nation, watched in shock as the tragic events unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut.
Our hearts go out to every person that was touched by those events. We know that children will have questions about what happened, and we as the Y, feel that it is important for us to help parents communicate on this difficult issue.
Below are some guidelines that can be used if/when your child seeks answers:
- Try to exhibit a sense of calm in the presence of children.
- Create a safe environment and allow children to freely express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear or consequences. Ask and discuss what makes them feel safe.
- If the topic arises, ask how they feel and let them know that you understand. Validate their feelings and let them know that how they feel is OK. Sympathize and empathize with them.
- Allow children to put their grief and/or emotions into action, i.e. write a letter or draw a picture.
- Be age appropriate, but direct, when answering questions. If the topic comes up, families should be encouraged to take breaks from the media coverage.
- Take note of any behaviors that seem to be out of character for the child as this may indicate the need to seek professional intervention. Behaviors can include, but are not limited to, persistent nightmares, bed wetting, soiling, aggressive behavior, isolating, etc.
- Maintaining normalcy in routines can also be helpful and comforting in these situations.
The Y will continue to work with our local experts to learn how we can continue to maximize the safety of our facilities and programs.
Earlier today, I had intended to write a blog post about this no sugar experiment my roommate and I are doing, but then I went to the movies. And I cried. I shook my hands at the movie screen a few times, laughed a few times, but I mostly cried. The movie that got me all worked-up is the documentary Bully. In short, it’s a wonderfully crafted film that follows five different families who are struggling with different aspects of the bullying crisis in America. There’s a family whose son ended his own life at age 17 after being harassed at school for years. A teenage girl whose whole family has been ostracized since she came out as being gay. And then there’s the 12 year-old boy, Alex, who has a heart of gold and a gorgeous smile, but he comes off as “weird” to other kids and is constantly physically and verbally bullied by classmates.
I’m not writing a movie review on the YMCA blog (though I will say it was amazing and powerful and worth seeing–check out the trailer here). I’m writing about this movie today because the parents and young people in the film, while they struggle and feel deep pain, are working to try to make change and to improve the lives of children in America, and that falls right in line with our work at the Y. One area of focus for the YMCA is Youth Development. We believe that all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they really are and what they can achieve. Through our many different programs, from childcare to sports to leadership development, we work to cultivate values and skills in children that will help them make positive choices in their lives. But this work isn’t just the responsibility of the YMCA–it falls on us all.
The film tonight showed just how much power lay in our words and actions–how deeply they can hurt and how high they can lift. We may not be on the playground or the school bus anymore, but us adults can fall into similar patterns, like gossiping and forming cliques, that share the same elements of childhood bullying. I don’t have children and don’t know if I will ever have any, but I want to set a positive example for any kids I might encounter by living and speaking in a way that doesn’t demean or hurt others. Doing that won’t always be easy or comfortable (just flip on the TV or open a magazine; our media is often glorified gossip) but it’s something I think we could all stand to do.
To learn more about the movement to end bullying, please check out Stand for the Silent, an organization founded by the Smalley family after they lost their 11 year-old son to suicide.