It feels like our community is on edge as we await the verdict in the Michael Brown investigation. The anticipation of the decision is probably the biggest culprit now in causing much angst and tension amongst us all. One question I have been hearing a lot lately is “Should we bring our kids to the protests?” Let me give 2 examples of everyday parenting to describe how I view that issue.
If parents at home are having a conflict, and they are able to calmly hear each other and come to a peaceful win-win resolution, then by all means I want their children to witness the process. If on the other hand the discussion leads to yelling and threats and violence, then I don’t want children to have to see and hear that. There is good data describing the deleterious effects of kids witnessing domestic violence (http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html), and that leads me to worry about children being in the middle of an angry mob of protesters. If the demonstrations were peaceful, it might be a different story. Based on what occurred back in august, and how the media is hyping the upcoming protests, it will not be a place for children or teens.
Let me give you another way of looking at this issue. Good parents continually monitor what TV shows, movies, and video games their children can see because they don’t want them to be exposed to cursing, violence, sexuality, and intense images they aren’t ready to process. What I saw playing out on the streets of Ferguson a few months ago would be rated R, and I’m worried what may transpire in the upcoming weeks will at least match that. I would not want my children to be exposed to this dispute in the context of an angry, intense, violent protest.
Our homes and classrooms provide safe spaces for kids to discuss the issues, hear different points of views and perspectives, get into other people’s shoes and see things from their perspectives, debate, question everything, and think critically. Use what is happening in Ferguson to discuss/teach peaceful ways to solve problems and make a difference. If there are peaceful community meetings at city hall or in churches, then let kids go and listen to adults talk about the issues, and then help them process through their own thoughts and feelings about what they heard.
Finally, find safe ways for kids to take some action to back up their beliefs and to make a difference because that will move them out of fear and worries. Before big leaps in growth and development, both for individuals and for cultures, there often is a period of chaos and disruption. Let’s listen to each other and support everyone so that the end result of all of this disharmony becomes peace and connection.
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