Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Children Terrified by Thoughts of School Violence

DEAR HARRIETTE: The rising number of school shootings has taken a toll on my children, especially my high school-age son. After the Parkland, Florida, shooting, he asked questions like, “Why would he do that?” Through our conversations, I have explained to him that sometimes these shootings can result from bullying and mental illness. He is still afraid to go to school. Every morning, he says he’s sick, hoping I will let him stay home.

In times like these, when violence seems to be increasing and schools do not seem safe, how do I teach my children that it is OK to live and not be afraid? -- Mother Needs Answers, Denver

DEAR MOTHER NEEDS ANSWERS: You are right to be concerned. What the most recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, proves is that this horrific type of mass murder can occur anywhere. The good news, if you can call it that, is that many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have organized and are making their voices heard to lawmakers, both locally and nationally. They have become activists against gun violence in schools and are trying to force lawmakers to revisit the legal status of semiautomatic weapons.

Encourage your son to have a voice as well. He can write to your representatives in the state legislature, to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and to the president of the United States to express his concerns. Becoming active in the struggle can be empowering. He can advocate ways that his own school can become safer. Encourage your son to speak about his fears and desires for safety. This may help him to feel less afraid. If needed, you can also talk to the psychologist at his school to ask for mental health support.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband is English, and I am African-American. We have been married for three years and just had our first child. We come from different backgrounds and cultures, and we both want to inform our child about her cultures when she is older. Because we live in the United States and his family is in the United Kingdom, we don’t get to see them much. Our daughter spends much more time with my side of the family. My husband has brought it up to me as a concern and I agree with him, but I don't know how to change things since his family is far away and it’s not easy to visit as often as we would like. How can my husband and I teach my daughter about her cultures equally? -- Striking a Balance, Memphis, Tennessee

DEAR STRIKING A BALANCE: It is natural for a family to gravitate to one side more than the other. In your case, simple geography is the culprit. To ensure that your daughter learns about both sides of her family, you two can be mindful of telling stories. Your husband can share stories about his childhood and anything he remembers about his family. You can Skype or FaceTime with the British relatives as well. Just because you aren’t in the same country does not mean that you cannot communicate. It will take effort. Work together to make time for everyone.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)