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Violence: Facing Down An Ugly Reality
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

The Promise of Hope
A Big Challenge
For Teens: Be a Peacemaker
For Kids: Spread Some Love

As a mom, one thing I feel very strongly about is not exposing my kids to violence. Having said that, on any given day you will find my four-year-old son, Alex, running around battling imaginary villains with a wrapping-paper-tube sword, shooting bad guys with sticks or using various other objects to defend against evil.

The reality is that it’s impossible to shield my kids from violence. They live in the post-9/11 world of terror alerts and war, of school shootings and Amber Alerts. They ask questions when we see the streets lined with people paying tribute to a fallen soldier being laid to rest. They notice yellow crime tape and comment when they see parents hitting their children. They are exposed to bullying. So, as much as I’d like to lock them away from violence, I can’t.

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The Promise of Hope

But there is something I can give them, and that is hope. And for that, I can rely a lot on my faith. As Catholics, we are a people of hope. In fact, our faith comes out of the belief that out of tragedy will come triumph.

Our faith also has a long history of denouncing violence and working for peace. Before the war in Iraq started, the late Pope John Paul II went to great lengths to urge alternative solutions to war. And although it may seem as if the pope and the bishops are constantly denouncing violence, it is important for them to keep talking about it. If they make an impression on only one person, their speaking out will be worth it. In fact, just think about how many times your parents had to tell you something before it finally sank in.

A Big Challenge

Peace is not easy. But the alternative is not acceptable. Here are some ways that you and your family can combat violence and work for peace:

Let your kids know it’s O.K. to talk. Many incidents in schools are prevented because students tell an adult what is going on. Let your kids know that it’s O.K. to confide in an adult—yourself, a teacher, a priest, a coach or any adult who can do something.

Be part of the solution. Kids emulate what they see their parents doing, so try to make a good impression. When you select shows or movies to watch—even the nightly news—or choose games to play, think about what impact it might have on your kids. Also, let your kids see you working to be a part of the solution. Work to improve situations in your neighborhood, parish, city and our country that may foster violence or misunderstandings.

Reassure your kids. Anytime there is any kind of weather alert on the television, my kids automatically think it applies directly to us. Each time my husband and I take the opportunity to reassure them that they are safe and remind them of our course of action if the warnings are for us. Do the same thing with news about violence. While violence in schools is not the norm, use instances where it does occur to reassure your kids and talk with them about how they should respond.

Be in the know. Read up on the policy at your children’s schools for handling things such as bullying or violence. If you have concerns, voice them but do so in a way that will lead to productive discussions.

Next Month: Give It Up

 

For Teens: Be a Peacemaker

Now that you’re a teenager, I bet there are times when you wish you were young again, because the older you get, the more aware you become of very adult issues, such as violence. Sometimes it can seem as if violence is all around you. There are terrorism, war, murder and violence in our communities. Closer to home, violence can rear its head through bullying or abusive relationships.

But it’s not hopeless. You can do something to combat violence. First of all, make a pledge not to participate in activities that can sometimes lead to violence, such as teasing, bullying or gossiping. And know that sometimes violence can be subtle, yet very real—for example, racism disguised as “that’s just the way things are.” But don’t be afraid to break the cycle of violence.

If your school offers conflict-resolution programs, get involved. If it doesn’t have such a program, lobby to have one developed. You can even challenge bigger issues of violence if you would like, such as taking part in programs for peace in your community. For more information on ways to stand up to violence, visit www.safeyouth.org, a Web site sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

For Kids: Spread Some Love

Bullying is one form of violence that often happens in school settings. Sometimes kids bully others because they don’t feel good about themselves. One way to handle this is to be kind to everyone. And what better time to let people know that you care than Valentine’s Day?

Make sure you have enough valentines for everyone in your class. Also, make some extras and distribute them randomly throughout the day to people you think might need them or don’t normally hang around or talk to. Or just try to be aware of other people’s feelings. Offer a smile or a reassuring pat on the back. Sometimes it’s nice just to know that someone is thinking of you.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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