Thank you Amnesty International for sponsoring this post.
Why does time move so fast?? I swear it was just yesterday that I was picking the kids up from their last day of school! Summer just started and now fall is upon us. It's September already!! Sigh… With the start of fall comes getting back into routines. My kids are back in school. My girls are sophomores and are now commuting by themselves sometimes. My boys have started at a new school and they walk to their dad's job by themselves after school. With 4 kids out roaming the streets by themselves for part of the day, their personal safety is at the forefront of my mind. Gun violence is one of the things that I worry about.
Amnesty International recently issued a new report declaring gun violence in the United States to be a human rights crisis, and I agree. The comprehensive report – written by Amnesty International’s team of expert researchers – details how the unfettered access to guns has compromised all aspects of life in the United States. The report calls on the U.S. government to promote and protect human rights by taking action to reduce and address persistent gun violence.
This is life where I am. Chicago is a beautiful city. However, living in the Chicago area, it is not always easy to see the beauty. Although we live in the suburbs, I work in the city, and my kids go to school in the city. So, we spend 5 out of 7 days, sometimes more commuting in and out of the city of Chicago.
And if you watch the news, you know that right now Chicago has a bad rep of not being a very safe place. I love my city, but unfortunately, it's true. Thousands of people die each year in the United States from gun violence, not just in Chicago, but all over. But, over the past few years, gun violence has pretty much overshadowed everything good going on in the city. Every week we are faced with hearing about more and more shootings in the Chicago area. We are hearing about domestic shootings and accidental shootings. The stories are heartbreaking. Just watch the video below for proof.
What Can We Do About It?
This is a very touchy subject. Figuring out who should take the blame can be a month's long conversation. I grew up on the Southeast Side of Chicago. And my mother lived there up until she passed away in March 2017. I pushed her to move, but she was not having it. As you may remember, she passed away on her moving day. But, she was not moving out of the neighborhood. She was only moving one block down the street. Sigh… While I loved growing up there as a kid, the area has really changed. Now? I shy away from that area if I can. And now, this is one area that is constantly on the news.
Another thing that we see on the news is a lot of protests against gun violence. But, do they do any good? The main problem is that the people with the guns… the people doing the shooting are not attending the protests. They are not watching the news. They are not seeing the aftermath of what they caused. The pain that the family endures. The ended future of the victims. And sadly, many of them probably do not care. The guns need to go. Period!
Honestly? This starts at home. RAISE GOOD HUMANS PEOPLE!!!! Teach your kids the value of human life. Teach your kids how to properly deal with conflict… guns are not the way to fix your problems. Sadly, many parents may have been raised in a way that doesn't afford them teaching their own kids to be good humans. In this case, it may be a sad cycle. But, it doesn't have to be. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with a child, you should start making plans to make that child a good person from the start. For some this may mean leaving the neighborhood that they have known their whole life. But… at some point in time, you have to want to do better. You have to want better for your children. I have always wanted my children to be better people that I am…. to do better in school… to experience awesome things. Everyone should think this way. If you need help, ask for it!
Fixing this also lies with the community. If you see something, say something. Period. Keeping quiet is not the way to protect your neighborhood or your family. If it was your child, you would want someone to help. Teach your kids this as well. If the police do not know who the offenders are, they cannot get them off the streets. Many times, you can report anonymously.
The bottom line is that we have to all work together to better things in our community and end gun violence. Unfortunately, selling guns is big business. They are going to keep making them. But, with some work, we may be able to keep them out of our communities. Meanwhile, all we can do it raise our children right, and protect them as best we can.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when thinking about family safety.
Talk to Your Children about Personal Safety
Now that my kids are on the move, I am constantly thinking about them and praying that they are ok. Unfortunately, I cannot keep my family in a bubble. We have to work. We have to go to school. And we have to live. What I can do is protect them the best way that I can. My girls took a self-defense class not too long ago. We talk about personal safety and I make sure that they know to have their phones on them and charged at all times.
Your children may be walking back and forth to school alone or with friends. Have a talk with them to remind them to be aware of their surroundings, to be wary of strangers, and to come straight home if that is your rule. Unfortunately, that will not protect them from accidental violence, but it will teach them about being independent, about personal safety, and getting around on their own.
They should also know that it's very important that they tell you if they see anything concerning. This could be while at school, while commuting, or while hanging out with their friends. And teach them about the importance of life. Teach them to look out for each other.
Get Your Children Smartphones
Many parents are still on the fence about when and if their children need a smartphone. Many think that if they drive their kids to and from school and pick them up from activities they do not need them. I disagree. If my kids are out of my site for a large part of the day, I want to be able to get in touch with them. My kid's old school had a no phone policy. It drove me nuts. There were a couple of days when I wanted to tell them that instead of my picking them up I needed them to walk to Grandma's house. The school stated that if we wanted to change pickup plans that we were to call the office between 3:15 – 3:30. I called from 3:15 to 3:45… no one ever answered the phone!!! I was livid!!! Since then, I am even more adamant that my kids have their phones with them at all times. Now, depending on your kids it may take a bit of training to have them take care of the phone… and remember to take them with them! I have one son who is constantly leaving his phone at home or at Grandma's house.
Your kids having a phone will give you peace of mind that they can reach out in an emergency if they need to. And if you need to get in touch with them to alter pickup plans, you can send a quick text. My kids know to check their phones at lunch and right after school for messages.
Arm them with a Portable Charger
Having a phone is great… as long as it stays charged. Unfortunately, smartphone batteries do not last forever. The length of battery life that you get depends on how much you use your phone during the day. Portable chargers are great for ensuring that their phone battery won't die at a critical moment.
I first learned about Life360 well over 5 years ago when I was asked to review their app. At that time, my kids were much younger and they did not have smartphones. I knew that it was a great product, I just did not have a use for it at the time. But now? My kids are much older and each is armed with their own smartphone. And, as mentioned above they are away from me for a good part of the day. Because of this, I want to take an extra step in making sure that they are safe. Life360 allows me to keep track of them. I can see when they arrive or leave school, Grandma's house, or home. You can set locations so that you get notifications. And you can even see when they are on the move. It's very easy to use, and it adds to my peace of mind.
Teach Your Kids About Home Security
We want our children to be safe at home too. If you have a gun in your home, please be sure that it is properly secured at all times. This will prevent an accidental shooting. Once your children are old enough, teach them about safe gun use. I have many friends that have taken their kids to gun safety classes. This is a great idea if you have a gun in your home. However, at the same time teach them that is is only there for emergencies and if the family is in danger.
While you are at it, talk to them about fire safety in the home. Come up with an emergency plan. And be sure that they know how to use your home security system. They should know how to trigger an emergency alert should the phone not be available. They should also know their full address and know your phone number.
Familiarize Yourself with School Policies
As mentioned above, some schools may have different policies on whether or not students can have phones during the day. Depending on the policy, you may have to alter how you connect with your children. You should also be familiar with pickups, dropoffs, how students who commute alone are dismissed, and where students are if you are late picking them up. Knowing all of this will help you come up with a plan for how your kids days will work.
We have the right to live. We have the right to enjoy our lives. And we have the right to move freely around this country without fear. Ending gun violence can help. Sign the Amnesty International petition now to end gun violence.
Disclosure: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.