We are reeling from what has become an all too common event in our nation, another horrifying school shooting. We then jump into debates about gun control, school security, FBI follow-up on leads, and the mental health system.
What we don’t talk about enough is primary prevention, which means raising children who do not commit violence. Children who experience trauma and are less resilient are at particular risk. How are we raising our children, particularly our boys?
While you may believe it is a parent’s job to raise children, it is a community’s role to support parents. This means reaching out to new parents in your neighborhood, offering a helping hand and listening ear. It means supporting home visitation for all new moms to screen for postpartum depression, ensure mom and baby are bonding and assure these new families have what they need to provide love, safety and security to their children. It means appreciating the sensitive nature of our boys, encouraging them to express their feelings, and teaching them, through our own actions, to be compassionate toward themselves and others.
While all of this may seem like common sense to many, it is also backed by decades of research. Children who have a loving attachment to a caring adult fare better. Children who suffer trauma (small and large trauma alike) are more likely to suffer long-term health issues, like diabetes and coronary heart disease, as well as depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to engage in criminal behaviors.
Yes, we need meaningful gun legislation. Yes, we need access to more mental health treatment, and yes, we need to research gun violence as a public health epidemic. We also need to pay attention to what our community is doing to care for and protect our families and children.
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We may not have had a school shooting in Napa County, but we are not immune. Two shot were shot in January. The Napa Valley Unified School District, parents and students are grappling with sexual assault.
We need to protect this community by making raising healthy children the most important work that we do, and we do that by putting our money where our mouth is.
It is not enough to say children are important. We need to fund critical services, pay living wages, provide housing that is affordable and ensure everyone has access to nutritious food. We also need to embrace families, break down isolation, and commit to the “Napa County quality of life” for every resident.