It may be an issue involving someone they know or a more public figure, like Trayvon Martin, who they’ll never have the opportunity to meet. The point is to assist your children as they develop into thoughtful, empathetic, and wise individuals who can intelligently maneuver through conversations voicing their own opinions.
The Trayvon Martin case has certainly stirred up a lot of emotions.
Race has been at the cornerstone of this story, but in addition, gun control has made an appearance as well. There has also been a lot of mudslinging in the political realm with the left and right fighting dirty, as always. No surprise there.
Not to be left out of the battle is the media, who strategically zero in on the most outspoken players in the crisis in hopes of stirring up even more dirt. It’s not necessarily wrong, but simply what we do in America. It’s all included in our constitution –– freedom of speech and freedom of the press. While we don’t always like it, it’s part of the makeup of our society.
My purpose here is not to debate the facts of the Martin case, because there are already a gazillion people doing that every day. The guilt or innocence of Trayvon Martin’s shooter and whether his actions are justified under the umbrella of Florida’s “stand your ground” law will be left up to those in the legal system. It’s called letting justice reign.
Instead, my goal is to encourage you to take the opportunity to engage your teens in a discussion of this situation. I don’t mean to simply impart your opinion on the matter and decide for your children how they should feel about it, but rather to point out all the issues involved in this explosive situation.
Help them to reach their own conclusion, and don’t get angry if it’s different than yours. It’s obvious when teens are spewing out their parent’s opinions because their words or expressions aren’t age appropriate. Sometimes they also accept a teacher’s opinion as truth because they’re an authority figure.
Start this lesson with your kids by delving into the justice system and explain what the “court of public opinion” means and how it affects a case before it gets to a real courtroom. Although many teens have probably learned this in school, it’s helpful for parents to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom and then demonstrate how to apply it in a conversation. Educate your children on how to decipher facts for themselves and to become interested in what’s happening in the world around them.
Compassion is something you can show and teach your children by exploring the latest headlines. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and simply turn off the news in favor of mindless television shows that evoke laughter instead of tears. It can be depressing to watch the news, but to simply go through life and spin a cocoon of only positive events will cause you to miss opportunities to stretch your compassion muscle. It will prevent you from bursting forth out of self-centeredness and blooming into a well-rounded creature who tries to understand the complexities of the world and offer help when possible.
It’s your responsibility to help your children broaden their horizons and learn how to gain different perspectives on a wide variety of circumstances. It may be an issue involving someone they know or a more public figure, like Trayvon Martin, who they’ll never have the opportunity to meet. The point is to assist your children as they develop into thoughtful, empathetic, and wise individuals who can intelligently maneuver through conversations voicing their own opinions.
This will benefit them in the future in their job, relationships and, ultimately, it will help them win at home.
— Dan Seaborn is the founder of the Zeeland, Mich.-based group Winning at Home Inc. Email him at email@example.com.