Sunday, December 16, 2012


We don't have to be Americans, or be residing in the US to recoil with shock and horror at what happened in Sandy Hook elementary school on Friday 14 December. As we follow the media reports and watch the news updates on our TV screens, we can feel the pain and anguish that the bereaved families are going through at the loss of their beloved little ones.

In the aftermath of this mass shooting and others in recent years (and there have been quite a number), there are many questions that need to be asked. All these gunmen were at one time adorable little children.
Adam Lanza at 12
How did they grow into young men capable of such unspeakable and horrific deeds? What turned them into merciless monsters that could gun down innocent people, including children? Did they have a score to settle? Were they influenced by the violence they saw in video games, on screen and in the real world? What went wrong to turn them into loners and social misfits? What was the last straw that triggered them into taking so many lives? Surely there must have been some signs to warn the adults around them that these young men were becoming a threat to their community?

May they rest in peace
It all comes back to the school and to the home. These are the two places where children spend most of their growing up years. Do our schools have experienced and qualified counsellors to help at-risk students who have difficulty coping with teenage problems? These problems could be a result of their parents' divorce, falling grades, unwanted pregnancy, low self-esteem, or rejection. Parents are usually the last people these troubled teenagers will turn to, more so if there is no real bonding between the two generations.

Parenting has become very challenging. We have to be on our guard against so many potential negative influences on our children. The most effective safeguard, in my opinion, is to ensure our children have a solid foundation built on parent-child love, trust and respect. We should start building this foundation as soon as our children are able to understand the stories we read to them.

We must also practice what we teach them, and give them an anchor, a goal, a direction until they are old enough to find their own. It could be religion, or a passion for something e.g. sports, music, art, community service. When they reach their teenage years, we will have less to worry about. And when they leave home for work or for further studies, we know they won't get into too much trouble, and if they do, they know they can always talk it over with us. They know they are not alone, and we are always there for them.

My views are based on my 36 years as a high school teacher and my sister's 37 years as a much loved pre-school teacher. It is also based on the mistakes I have made as a parent and the lessons I have learned from these mistakes.
So back to basics - How well do we know our children? Do we know the names of their best buddies, their favourite teachers, their likes and dislikes? When was the last time we did something together with our children? Have we visited our son/daughter's Facebook page? How long has it been since we last attended our children's school functions, or spoken with their teachers?

The answers lie with us. And for many of us, it's time to step up as responsible parents.

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