Parenting Through Tragedy

By Susan Stiffelman

Original published in June 2016 on the Huffington Post, and reprinted with permission

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve used this column to offer support to parents in the aftermath of a tragedy. I have addressed school shootings, suicides, and random acts of violence, attempting to help parents offer their children comfort in the aftermath of terrible events.

In situations like the shooting in Orlando we may feel powerless, fueling feelings of panic and vulnerability. But while it may seem impossible to believe that any one individual can stop the quell of aggression and violence, in fact it always comes down to the actions of one individual.

Helping stem the tide of hate, discrimination, and violence is one of the strongest statements we can make against acts of violence and hatred.

Beyond sending prayers or taking part in vigils, there are practical things that parents can do to change the climate of prejudice that fosters actions like those in Orlando.

Teach tolerance. Expose your children to people from a variety of walks of life. Visit a temple or church of a different faith, letting your children discover that when you do not share someone’s religion, you still maintain curiosity and respect for their beliefs.

Attend gatherings from cultures different from your own. In Los Angeles alone, you can participate in festivals focusing on the food, dance, and music of every part of the world.

And model for your children basic respect for those near and dear to you when their opinions differ from your own. What do you do when a friend or family member expresses a political or religious belief you disagree with? Do your kids see you asking questions, demonstrating a willingness to learn more? Or do you shout down those who see things differently from you?

Raising children who internalize the values of tolerance and compassion is an essential ingredient to counteracting the hatred that fuels acts of violence.

We may be heartbroken, but we are not powerless. Raising children who internalize the values of tolerance and compassion is an essential ingredient to counteracting the hatred that fuels acts of violence.

As we mourn the loss yet again of innocent lives, I pray that we teach our children that all human life is precious, both by our words, and most importantly, our actions.

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Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.