By: Tina Rhoden-Lewellyn, Executive Director, Ben’s Ranch Foundation
The Texas school shooting in Uvalde shook our nation to the core and left many of us struggling. Unfortunately, the unknowns and whys seem to outweigh the solutions, but preventive measures do exist. Coming together as a community, paying attention to those who are struggling, reaching out to them, standing in the gaps and youth development all make a difference. Young people connected to their communities, who have positive caring adults in their lives and who engage in positive activities are far less likely to commit acts of violence and other high-risk behaviors. Every citizen can add value to the lives of young people. Here are some ideas and tips so that you can help prevent a school shooting like what we saw in Texas and other tragedies:
- Spend time outdoors with children and teens and encourage them to have outdoor time. Plan a picnic or take a walk.
- Plant a garden and solicit help from young people. Maybe even allow them to give some of the vegetables away- instilling empathy and service to others in them.
- Connect young people to animals. Help them understand the value of life and the care involved.
- Talk to children and ask them if they feel safe. Follow their lead and help them find perspective and safety. Check back in periodically.
- Help a young person with his or her homework
- Ask children and teens about their goals and dreams. Then help them find ways to work toward them.
- Be a good role model. Children and teens are watching.
- Ask a local church, school or organization that serves youth how you can help.
- Establish goals, expectations and values as a family and community. Remember to re-visit them periodically.
These suggestions are not meant to minimize or placate the teen mental health crisis in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 40 percent of teens said they felt sad or hopeless during 2021. Parents, friends, and families must stay vigilant and say something if we see something. If you see someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).