Gun Violence, Safety, and Support for Families
Finding your Mama Bear is about your perception of safety and doing something. It’s about the need to keep our children safe and how that impacts our nervous systems.
Find ways to be proactive – whether that’s pulling your child out of school until the problems are properly addressed at least in the short term, finding programs or efforts that you support that you feel are moving things in the right direction – whatever that means to you.
In the first week of our series on Gun Violence, we talked about listening to understand. We talked about the Old Story and the New Story (Charles Eisenstein) and the importance of staying connected in our own families. We talked about how part of listening is recognizing that we all want our children to be safe. Whatever the other messages are and how they’re currently being communicated, we have that in common.
In our second episode, we looked at the Collective Trauma of Gun Violence and the importance of the social nervous system and connection. Today, we’re talking about Finding Your Mama Bear and your perception of safety and finding something you can DO to keep yourself feeling safe without isolating.
As we begin talking today about Finding Your Mama Bear, I want you to consider all the ways that other parents are responding to the stress of what’s happening right now. Remember that at the core of it all, all parents wants their children to be safe, even if we all have different ways of looking at the problem and the solutions. We need to start somewhere.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Slow down and connect with yourself
I’d like to invite you to slow down for a moment and connect with yourself. How are you feeling right now? When you think about what’s happening in the United States of America and its Gun Violence, what happens in your body? Do you feel energy mobilizing into your arms or legs? Do you feel numb? Are you feeling hopeless? Do you feel scared? There’s no right or wrong answer here. Just notice what happens for you.
Are you able to connect with others or have you found most spaces really aren’t safe? Do you have a safe space to talk about all of this with your friends? Your partner? Other parents? Are you able to engage the social branch of your nervous system and find a sense of safety within you?
I’d like you to invite you to feel your feet. Wiggle your toes. Feel the edges of your body starting at your feet. You need to be present in your body to find your Mama (or Papa) Bear. Then feel your seat beneath you. Wherever you are right now, you’re safe enough to be listening to or reading this. Take a nice deep breath and feel that.
We’re going to be looking at things that you can do to help make things feel safer for yourself and your kids, but first we need to make sure that you’re connected to yourself.
Allow yourself to just notice what comes up when you check in with your body. What do you need? Are you in a stress response? Check in with your heart – is your heart beating hard and fast or can you barely feel your pulse? Are you hot, cold, or just right? Are you breathing normally, hard, or shallow? Just notice. Your body is communicating with you.
Do you need to move your body? Just notice.
Keep checking in with yourself as you listen to the podcast. Next week, we’ll build on this idea and help you check in more with your kids and what they need.
Fight, Flight or Freeze
Last week, we talked about how our nervous systems work according to the Polyvagal Theory. We talked about how we first look for social connection using the social branch of our nervous system. If that doesn’t work and we don’t feel safe, we move into fight or flight. If that doesn’t work, we move into parasympathetic or freeze. This is the “There’s nothing we can do,” which we have all started to believe after nearly 20 years of mass shootings in our schools (Columbine’s 19-year anniversary is coming up in April). Collectively, we’re in our parasympathetic response.
When I was living in Oaxaca, Mexico, one of the things that really struck me was that when something was happening that the people didn’t like, they would protest. They would form bloqueos on the major roads in the town and stop traffic. It was a fairly common occurrence there and it really made an impact on me. I realized in that moment how completely passive we are in this country.
When we don’t like something, and by that, I mean that our children are dying in schools and we don’t feel safe, nor do our children, we don’t do anything collectively. Yes, we may sign a petition online, but nothing else really changes. No one is inconvenienced. No one really notices. In fact, in our country, we make fun of or try to shame those who stand up. In Oaxaca, it will eventually be your turn to protest for something, whether it is the violent deaths of protestors several years ago or that teachers aren’t being paid enough money. It gets the attention of everyone in the city and they don’t go home until change happens.
What a stark contrast to what I see in the United States of America. Mexico, with all its perceived problems and ridicule here in the USA actually has a much healthier response to things that aren’t right and need immediate attention. They don’t wait until sometime next month, they act now.
They’re using their sympathetic mobilization to do something to make their world different and safer.
When we feel nothing can be done and we’re told nothing can be done, we begin to feel powerless. We’re stuck. But we need to start asking the question, “What can we do?”
We, as moms, dads, parents, grandparents, have a responsibility to keep our kids safe. Take a moment and really think about what that means to you. Maybe it means you listen to those closest to the situation- our teachers and school administrators and ask them what they need? Maybe you have the financial resources to help your local school take steps so that they will feel safer. Or maybe you know how to get grant funding. Jump in and start doing something!
Perhaps you’re a big advocate of trauma-informed communities and want to see more of that spread. I just saw that Wisconsin is looking to become the first trauma-informed state! This means that all of their first responders, mental health and anyone working with a school will be trained to recognize signs of trauma and there will be appropriate resources to get the help. Maybe you can take steps in your own community to get that started!
Maybe you feel strongly that we need additional gun regulations. Join in the upcoming marches. Support our students who are stepping out and using this sympathetic mobilization to make a change. Join their energy, contribute to what they’re doing.
Perhaps you’re feeling like you want to help create more security for the schools and maybe you have some ideas about how to keep our kids safe right now while we figure this out. Find some other parents who feel the same way and work on some solutions.
If you feel like the best option is for your child to not be in school right now, do that. If we, as a whole country, decided not to send our children to school until this was resolved in a way that made us all feel safe, the issue would be addressed more quickly.
We need to work together
Using the idea of the old story, that we aren’t connected and that we can do this on our own, isn’t going to allow us to have big cultural changes. We need to work together, find others who believe what we do, and see what we can do to enact change in the name of protecting our children. Doing nothing is parasympathetic shock and stress. It’s freeze. It’s paralysis. The idea of “There’s nothing we can do.” continues. And it isn’t helping us or our kids.
So begin asking what you can do. Today. There’s nothing more important than the safety of our children. All of our children collectively. We are moving into the New Story and we’re in the story between the story right now. What can you do to make a difference?
We’ve been feeling powerless for far too long. Remember the Oaxacan people and their determination to make things right when they are wrong. Let them remind us of our healthy power and just keep asking yourself, “What can I do today to make this a safer place for my family?”