Tag Archives: Redefining relationships

Parents key to reducing youth violence


sad young person

Telling children not to feel what they feel can lead youngsters to stop confiding in trusted adults, giving more energy to bottled up feelings that can become destructive.

Why are they so angry?,” columnist Ana Veciana-Suarez asked rhetorically in a recent Miami Herald (“Senseless rage sparks inexplicable tragedy,”  4/2/10), listing five tragic examples of teen-on-teen violence that have received national attention this year.

While each story is unique, the issue of young people’s feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and frustration turning deadly is not. For each example, there are dozens more that have not been featured by the local or national media. The murders of three teens in nearby Liberty City during the first three weeks of March alone went almost unnoticed by the press.

This month marks the 11th anniversary of the horrific killings at Columbine. More than a decade later, many schools have implemented valuable lessons. Yet millions of families and communities across the country are tragically missing in action when it comes to taking actions to make America safer for all our children. While school administrators, counselors, and educators struggle to assure the safety of children on their campuses, they cannot succeed without active community support that begins in each of our homes and neighborhoods.

Rarely is violence against children as premeditated as the attack that left 15 dead and 24 injured in Littleton, Colorado. More typically, it’s a result of young people without constructive, healthy outlets for upsetting feelings either unleashing stored up emotions inward or outward. Parental messages that urge children not to feel what they feel (“Don’t be angry,” “Don’t be sad,” Don’t be scared.”) often lead youngsters to stop confiding in trusted adults, giving more energy to bottled up feelings that can become destructive.

Emotions turned inward show up as sadness, depression, and at the extreme, suicide. For those who release their feelings outwardly, they can be unleashed as anger, rage, and at another extreme, violence.

parents fighting in front of daughter

Many young people do have much to be upset about. The financial stresses that are impacting millions of families touch their lives too, both as they witness increasing conflict and uncertainty within their families and become innocent victims of marital and family breakdown.

Many young people do have much to be upset about. The financial stresses that are impacting millions of families touch their lives too, both as they witness increasing conflict and uncertainty within their families and become innocent victims of marital and family breakdown. For others approaching the end of high school or college, educational and career aspirations may feel unobtainable as traditional paths to independence become increasingly elusive. Pressures to fit in, achieve academic success, and beat an uncertain path to a successful future lead many young people to despairingly surrender their dreams altogether.

Those who do stay the course often have assets in their lives – human assets – that support, encourage, and urge them forward:

  • Parents who model healthy conflict resolution skills within their families; ·
  • Parents whose actions regularly show children they are valued and loved; ·
  • Parents in whom they can safely, consistently confide and seek comfort.

Communities in which children are regularly deprived of these vital family resources are far more likely to produce angry adolescents who are a threat to themselves and others.

Programs that encourage caring, responsible adults to spend hours each month mentoring youngsters have proven themselves invaluable when children aren’t able to seek support from their own parents.

While some parents may not naturally have the skills to model healthy conflict resolution within their homes and create relationships in which it’s safe for children to seek counsel and comfort, educational programs that teach relationship skills to adults have been shown to make a difference.

Assuring more children grow up with two parents who are actively engaged in their lives within neighborhoods where caring adults are regularly a positive influence is the most important contribution we can make to a future that’s safer for all of our sons and daughters.

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Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref Normalizes Relationship Differences


The Marriage Ref

Tom Papa is the Marriage Ref in Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy on the challenges of love and marriage.

Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref premiered on NBC last night with an intimate peak into the lives of two couples navigating the unique challenges of their relationships.

While the particular issues highlighted in this first episode were unusual – a husband wanting to keep his deceased dog’s stuffed body in the family room and another eager to install a stripper’s poll in the bedroom – differences in every human relationship, especially between intimates, are not.

Together with panelists Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Seinfeld himself, host Tom Papa navigated the very real issue of relationship differences with lighthearted humor that is too often missing when couples find themselves at odds with each other.

With weekly episodes beginning this Thursday in Jay Leno’s previous 10:00pm time slot, celebrity panelists such as Madonna, Tina Fey, Eva Longoria Parker, and Larry David are sure to bring a valuable message to millions of couples: differences are a normal part of every relationship. Learning to deal with them with humor, empathy, respect and structure is a message that can make a difference for countless marriages.

Ultimately, few couples will bring the challenges of their lives to the show’s panel of comedic commentators and analysts. In the process, however, many more will find new perspective, strategies and opportunities to become their own marriage refs. As those insights help couples reach out to each other with love, levity, empathy and respect, Jerry Seinfeld’s journey through the absurdities and inanities of modern life has the potential to be a brilliant success.