How to Embrace Our Youth and Their Cause

diane sitting on steps with three kidsLast week, I invited readers to discuss and encourage civil disobedience in their children as the Never Again Movement created by the youth from the Parkland, Florida high school inspired marches all over the country.

I hope parents of children old enough to appreciate and embrace the messages of these young citizens gave them their own kid’s opportunities to do so, either by participating with them in one of the marches or inviting them to watch broadcast news showing this outpouring of passionate demands for answers to issues around gun violence. (Please note that this information and these images should not be shared with children who might be frightened or overly stressed by the explanation of this event. Young children might only become terrified that they are at risk every time they went to school.)

These young people, and most likely the majority of young people all over our nation, and in fact all over the world, are facing a fear no child should ever have to face: the potential for them or their friends and teachers to experience a sudden attack by someone with probable mental health issues who had access to a gun.

The opposite of apathy is action. An antidote to fear is power.

These passionate, motivated young people are claiming their power and their right to a voice.

They are claiming their power to be outraged and, like all citizens, their right to demand legislators act on their behalf.

I’m sure they wish they didn’t have to take a stand, be thrown into the public eye, speak before hundreds and thousands of people and, appear on newsfeeds all over the world. They have chosen to claim the power to demand change. In the midst of having to grieve the loss of friends and the loss of a sense of being safe in their school environment, they are focusing on using their voices.

I think we can all learn or relearn lessons about grief in the face of horrific loss.

Grief processes are just that: a series of experiences that allow a person to feel pain, and struggle to make sense of what happened. One will experience the emotions of denial and anger and eventually, sometimes many years later, come to a place of reconciliation with the realities of the loss.

So, first is the loss of the precious lives of the victims shot in cold blood.

These young people (and all of us are also grieving the loss of lives) should have been protected long ago when the very first shootings began to be seen in our schools.

I think we are also grieving that legislators and anyone in power to prevent future violence didn’t act, but rather chose to turn their backs on the possibility. Now the probability of future acts of violence exists in our schools.

These young people do not seem to be experiencing their new status as something to be celebrated. It does not seem to be going to their heads, but rather, they are figuring out the power that comes with uniting and speaking out in ways that reach millions of people.

I think one of the inspirational speeches that captured some of the pain and the refusal of young people to be silenced was the six-minute 20-second elocution by Emma Gonzalez. She timed the speech to match how long the gunmen took to murder and maim his victims.

Her composure and steely determination to communicate her message mesmerized the audience, especially when she went silent, weeping softly and yet maintaining a level of mature fortitude I doubt many of us could achieve. On its own, the audience began to chant the message “Never Again” as their hearts and emotions were ignited.

She and others making speeches pleaded that all Americans exercise their right to vote so that we put legislators in place who can truly accomplish the mission of the Never Again movement.

Once again, I implore parents to turn this horrific event into something positive by embracing the messages of these young people and inspiring the next generation of voting citizens to use their voices to claim their power to help alleviate their fears.

We also need to embrace and nurture the grieving process that goes with the losses experienced…

…losses of precious lives and confidence in those who have the power to find ways to ensure our children are safe in their schools.

Being safe in school should be a certainty, not just a hope.

We can’t let grief be swallowed up in denial and in the false belief that this won’t happen again. Your vote is your voice.

Help our children to understand that by teaching it and modeling it. There are times for tolerance. This is not one of those times!

Invitation to Reflect

  1. If your children are old enough and mature enough to view the marches and talk with you about the messages, have you made sure to take the time to sit with them, discuss, process and encourage them to realize the power they have to join these voices?
  2. Check your own levels of passion versus apathy for the power you have to use your vote and to raise your voice. It is a part of being a citizen of this country. It is an opportunity to teach and model to your children.

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Institute