I, for one, thought I was watching a movie in real time as the police chased the Tsarnaev brothers, apprehended one, and searched for the other. It could’ve been an episode of Homeland but it played out on CNN at 10:30pm on Thursday, April 18. This drama has continued ever since. At the same time, there were children, teenagers, and young adults playing video games, which miraculously paralleled these real-life events. Here are some of my reflections on the Boston Bombing, a historic and tragic event.
The modern day conundrum is how do we teach our children about peace and cooperation while they see real life violence and act out fantasy violence? Behind any act of violence is an intense and unresolved anger. This could be the perfect teaching moment – a discussion of fantasy violence versus real life anger has to be made more transparent, even at the youngest of ages. Resolving anger is part of the resilience that makes for healthy children, and ultimately, healthy adults. This is not something outside any of our reach – this is done with simple acts of kindness and being a consistent and unconditionally loving parent.
It is consistent with experience and practice that people who resort to violence are often young, disaffected men around the same age (16-29). They lack a real connection with their families, they are isolated, and have grasped on to an ideology or fantasy that becomes a salve for their rage instead of coping with anger and frustration in a more productive way. Luckily, these are few and far between in the scope of the world. It may seem like a lot lately, but it’s a rare occurrence.
The ability to deal with anger and to cope with your own frustration begins in early childhood. As parents, we need to validate the frustration and anger that we see in our children and then offer alternatives to lashing out. Elementary school children need to learn the art of negotiation rather than acting out. But this also comes with, once again, a validation of the way your child feels.
The job of the tween and teen is to separate from parents. But this act of defiance cannot be unguarded. Parents still need to be watchful and draw their children in for family dinners or family trips. This doesn’t have to be on a daily basis, but the family presence still needs to be felt.
If you see a pattern of isolation and withdrawal, consider consulting a professional. By taking preventative measures you will grow as a parent and help your child in a parallel fashion. Often when a child becomes isolated and detached, parents throw up their hands in despair. Maybe try doing something counterintuitive and give that child the hug and help for which they really yearn.