In order to glean lessons from the massacre in Tucson, perhaps we use this route: “Except for the grace of God, any one of us could be” the parents of Jared Lee Loughner, or parents of a number of young adults who, over time, have rocked the nation with their evil acts. Clearly, those parents, no matter how good or bad they might be, didn’t know their children.
As pundits and opportunists continue to foul the ongoing dialogue with their presumptions, the good news is you and I can still influence our children through course corrections and reconnections. We can do that, though the Loughners are forced to live out the anguish their son created for them and multiple other families.
Questions of why kids go nuts are always out there. Some youth seem to be born broken, others snap for reasons too numerous to review. But we know healthy families give kids the best soil for growth. Let’s get about providing that garden and focusing on the outcome. That’s one way we can rationally use this horror rather than bicker among factions over suppositions no one can prove.
Take note: There’s growing support in the nation for re-dedicating family time; a minimum of one night a week is the recommendation. Nothing else is allowed to interfere. Technology is mostly banned so face-to-face interaction has a chance. (See “Your BlackBerry or Your Wife,” Wall Street Journal, 1.11.11, p. D1).
The idea for a designated family night at first seems too complicated, but in light of the Loughner’s irreversible hell, is there really anything too complex in regards to growing healthy kids?
Overworked parents often don’t notice a child is cracking before their eyes. So, habitual family togetherness can provide crucial moments to read the “tea leaves” of our children’s psyche.
Multiple websites and churches can guide you through your commitment to lasting, family bonding. We already know the best years are during your child’s pre-teens, actually beginning at birth. And that focused family association will provide precious opportunity for injecting protective influence. Though not a guaranteed cure-all, it gives kids a fighting chance rooted in stability.
Something to remember: Addictions are not all bad. Addict your kids to time with family; “one on ones,” surprise midnight snacks or movies, games, trips, hobbies, conversations, cooking and decorating projects, hikes – well, you know best what works for your family, but at the least, lock down one night a week and never deviate. Pull in their friends even before peer influence takes control. Make your home their haven.
Go to about.com, just one of many positive family sites. Then click on Reclaim Your Family Time for a Happier Home by Robin McClure. Robin suggests you launch your tradition with a family meeting, welcoming input from all members. Then, go forth.
Beyond McClure’s suggestions, seek invaluable teaching moments to talk openly about the big subjects: sex, drugs, alcohol and honesty in school work, employment and relationships.
Show love abundantly through responsible hands-on hugs and touching; eye contact; friendship with respect. Give them values to live by, show them how. Lead the way. And, remember, consistent discipline, with loving intent, is enormously important. Again, ban technology from that weekly commitment.
Begin family time now, with enthusiasm. And, hold your kids extra tight these days. Parental golden influence is protective armor, for family and society.
East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor