How to have a conversation after a school shooting

The day after the Parkland, FL school shooting, I started a blog post. I’ve spent hours poring over articles with the facts and with opinions about everything from gun control to mental health to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). I got curious what the statistics actually were on mental health and violence and the effectiveness of gun control here and around the world. I looked up statistics on mass shootings and school shootings and school population and leading causes of death in children. I researched the link between violence and ACE scores and how feeling marginalized leads to volatility and hyper arousal of the nervous system. I didn’t have to research the effect of how losing multiple primary caregivers or problems with traditional discipline in school. Been there, done that.

I wanted to lay out all of my findings and all of my opinions, but realized, for issues as divisive and polarized as this (like racism), I want to be an advocate of ideas and opinions in the context of relationship.

I want to be an advocate of ideas and opinions in the context of relationship. #schoolshooting Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing. I feel like if we put aside our differences for a hot second, we can agree that we want the same things—less violence and felt safety. What we disagree on is what factors affect those. There’s also a foundational desire to protect a person’s rights and freedoms, whether it be the right to bear arms or the right to life.

What would it look like to start our conversations and interactions on common ground instead of drawing our lines in the sand first? In connected parenting, we encourage parents to frame situations so that the parent and child stay on the same “side.” That might mean thinking about a parent and child fighting together against the effects of trauma instead of a parent thinking of fighting against this child and his behaviors which are ruining her family’s life. Parent and Child vs. Trauma instead of Parent vs. Child. Do you see how that could make such a huge difference relationally?

Let's start conversations on common ground instead of drawing our lines in the sand first. Click To Tweet

Also, questions lead us to solutions. Inflammatory opinions and “truth bombs” dropped on social media only create more division.

If we really want to start solving this problem, we are going to need to work together. Not fight with each other.

One thing that really helps me is remembering that we form opinions inside our own bubble of a paradigm. If I’ve learned nothing else in the past 5 years, it’s

Some of my fundamental beliefs about life have been shaken at my core which means I’m holding my opinions with much more open hands. And you know what? I’m a better human for it. It’s changed the way I do relationship with my husband, my kids, and people with whom I work. I also know that I’m still definitely a work in progress. You can ask my husband, my kids, and the people with whom I work 😉

I also know that how I hear and process someone’s opinion is different when I have a relationship with her because I have a paradigm that knows her heart’s deeper intentions, and I can reconcile that opinion within that framework. In simpler terms, it just helps me give a person, with whom I might disagree, the benefit of the doubt.

So, if you want to see all of my Excel graphs and hear why I don’t think the statistics on mental health and violence tell the whole story or how I’m convinced kids are still safer at school than at home, we’ll have to plan to grab coffee or at least a phone date.

If you feel strongly about all of these issues, grab a friend who thinks a little differently than you, put away your Straw Man exclamations, and have a real conversation. Figure out your common ground and make and action plan that you can work on together.

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  1. I have only talked with my middle school daughter about the shootings and not the elementary school one. As awful as it all is, kids are too used to it. They do drills to prepare and I hate that it is a necessity. I just keep encouraging both girls to be friends with kids who don’t seem to have any.

    • Sarah,
      This parenting thing is tough isn’t it? I love the focus on being friends with the marginalized. I think that will have a greater impact than any legislation we throw at a problem!

  2. Looking for common ground is always helpful. No matter the issue. I wrote about Parkland (and all the other tragedies) recently at A Fine Parent. It was so helpful to process thoughts

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