Helping Kids Focus on 6 Life Lessons After the Florida High School Shooting by Steve Siebold
It’s been a long and very upsetting two weeks since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that took 17 innocent lives, 14 of them children. Whether you had friends or family at the school that day, live in the area or were watching the coverage on television from thousands of miles away, you’ve probably been consumed with emotions of grief, anger, confusion and despair.
As the nation continues to pay tribute and mourn, and as the kids at Stoneman Douglas High School head back to class today, we can help remember the victims and keep their legacies alive by acknowledging the real-life lessons our kids have learned through the tragedy. To say that any good came from this heinous act would be inappropriate, insensitive and simply untrue. However, with all the doom and gloom and negative news that continues to consume the airwaves and social media, it’s important for kids to see another side of it. There are six lessons in particular that children need to be aware of:
- The world is both beautiful and brutal. We’ve seen firsthand how brutal the world can be. But over the last two weeks, we’ve also learned how beautiful the world can be, too. Don’t ever forget that. Unfortunately, it’s in times of tragedy that we often see the beauty of people coming together and supporting one another. Make that your mission all the time, every day you walk this earth. Lend a hand to someone less fortunate. Ask your classmate who is struggling with the math concept if he or she would like your help. Include the kid who is sitting alone at the lunch table with your group. Bad things are inevitable, but we can all do more good to make this world a better place.
- Live courageously. Having courage is one of the hallmark characteristics of the most successful people. Every single student who attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is courageous. The bravery and courage they showed on the day of the shooting, how they’ve maintained themselves and held it together as well as they have over the last few weeks, and returning to classes this week are all events that have made them extremely courageous. Nobody should ever be put in the situation these poor kids found themselves in on February 14, but the level of courage they all have is something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
- There’s power in public speaking. Many seasoned and polished professionals are terrified to speak in public, yet these kids were thrust into the national spotlight all while dealing with the loss of their friends and teachers and trying to figure out the unthinkable. With the national platform they’ve been given, these kids are quickly becoming the difference makers of tomorrow, sending a powerful message to Washington and the world. They have the courage of a bullfighter and the concentration of a Buddhist Monk. Teaching a child to speak publicly is helping ensure future success, builds confidence and is a way to honor their fallen friends.
- Always do what’s right. Fifteen-year old student Peter Wang died a hero in the school shooting when he helped his classmates and teachers escape. Many things can be taught in life, but integrity is not one of them. Wang died in his JROTC uniform and was posthumously accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Chances are you’re not going to be put in a life or death situation, but regardless, always do what’s right even if it’s not the popular thing to do or the consequences won’t be favorable. Start by identifying one difficult situation you are currently experiencing and make the decision to do the right thing.
- Life isn’t fair. Our well-meaning adults of influence try to persuade us that life is fair and the good guys always win. A common belief held by the masses is that everything happens for a reason, which comforts them in times of crisis. This belief is an emotional opiate people use to quell their fears and to try and make sense of the random nature of life. These kids have proved that they have the mental toughness, tenacity and perseverance to thrive and survive. Life isn’t fair, but you are stronger than you realize. It’s sad that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to show you just how tough you are, but the lesson for every child out there is that no matter what life throws your way, you can make it through.
- Nothing is guaranteed. No matter who you are, where you live, what kind of grades you make or anything else, nothing is ever guaranteed. I’d be lying to you if I guaranteed tomorrow was coming for sure. That’s why it’s imperative that you live every day as if it were your last. Live the life you want to live and be the person you dream of being. Ask yourself this critical thinking question: if today was my last day on earth, am I satisfied with the life I have lived? If the answer is no, you need to make some changes.
Parents should be there for their children during these difficult times. Encourage them to ask questions, express their feelings and do what they need to do to process recent events. After the grieving process, take time to review these important life lessons with your children. It’s a way to help them while also honoring those we lost.
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