My grandkids in Denver spent a day inside their house this past week while authorities searched for the young lady obsessed with the Columbine school shooting. They drive by Columbine High School on their way to work and school so the danger was particularly fresh. They couldn’t even go outside to walk the dogs because of the threat. My heart hurt for them and all the victims of any school shooting because of the memories generated by this crisis.
I always hesitate to criticize any parent after a crisis. It doesn’t seem fair to “Monday morning quarterback” a parent’s private horror after realizing that their child had a bigger problem than they ever thought. The day after is too late to save their child or the ones hurt by their child.
One of the most difficult things a parent can do is admit that a child needs more than a parent can give. We provide everything they need, we stay up late, we get up early, we drive them everywhere, we carry all the responsibility. Who else could love them the way we do? Asking someone else to talk to our children just goes against the grain. But sometimes we have to face the fact that our children need more.
Persistent. That is a word I see in a lot of places to describe a warning sign that should not be ignored. Persistent moods or emotions of any kind like anger, sadness, or a lack of motivation cry for help. If your child is constantly angry at everything or constantly down in the dumps or constantly unwilling to do everyday activities, they are stuck in a persistent cycle. They need a boost. They need more than you can give them right now. They need outside help. Watch for signs of “persistent” in your child’s emotions.
Preoccupation. From the news story itself, you should know that if your child is completely preoccupied with anything in their world they need outside help. Preoccupation goes beyond admiring. Most kids have posters of favorite things or people in their rooms or on their phones. Admiring can appear pretty intense at times because preteens can feel their emotions very deeply. But preoccupation in the sense of being unable to think about anything else or paying money to do things like travel to another state (to borrow from the news) or be enthralled with something to the point of not eating or taking care of other things in life screams for attention.
Violence. A child who hits things that don’t work right or beats on other people or the wall or your pets—needs outside help. Violence is a danger sign that needs immediate attention. It isn’t natural to feel any emotion so deeply that something else has to pay or be broken or hurt. Violence against animals will escalate to violence against people. This goes for children or adults. If someone is hitting the wall, they will graduate to the animals and then to the people in the home. Get help NOW.
Getting help means finding someone you can trust. Expand your world right now to find someone who has training or expertise in helping children. A counselor, a minister or a teacher might be your first call for outside help. Even another parent can sometimes be a sounding board for a child that doesn’t want to risk a conversation with a beloved parent about something that is really bothering them. Don’t isolate. Keep your child’s options open with good mentors and friends who can help when you need it. Better safe than sorry.