Uncomfortable lessons from Sandy Hook shootings

  • By Dr. Gregory Ramey

    Cox Newspapers January 12, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio – I’ve spoken with a number of youngsters about Adam Lanza’s deadly rampage last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I’ve listened to their fears, answered their questions and offered them lots of reassurance.

What I’ve not done is to point out that this horrible event reflects three uncomfortable truths about life that are well known to adults but rarely discussed with kids.

1. Life is unfair

I’ve had an image stuck in my head about the absolute terror felt by those 20 young schoolchildren and six adult staff as they confronted their imminent death. I can’t even begin to make any sense of this, along with so many other tragedies that occur daily.

When I was in fourth grade, a police officer and priest came to our classroom to talk about the rape and murder of one of the students in our school. One of my classmates asked Father Robert what many were thinking but were afraid to ask. “Why does God allow such bad things to happen to little kids?”

“God is a lot smarter than you, my son. He has a plan for all of us even if we can’t understand it,” responded Father Robert.

This sounded pretty stupid to me as a fourth-grader, and it remains incomprehensible to me now as an adult. So many things about life are not fair.

2. You are not safe

The killings at Sandy Hook are a statistically rare event. Even so, adults know that total safety is an illusion, with car crashes and accidental poisonings the major causes of death for children.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to do better. When automobile fatalities increased substantially in the 1960s and ‘70s, there was a concerted effort to design cars more safely and enforce laws related to drunken driving. The result was a gradual but substantial decrease in automobile related deaths.

We can improve the safety of our children. In addition to looking at school security, gun laws and our culture of gratuitous violence, we need to focus on improving access to mental health services for kids and adults. Only about 20 percent of kids with mental health disorders get treatment for their problems.

3. There are evil people in the world

Perhaps Lanza’s behavior was due to a genetic abnormality, a psychotic disorder or a bad family life. We have a strong need to understand how adults can perform such atrocious acts.

We know that not all bad behavior is caused by mental illnesses. There are evil people in the world, although we rightly tell our kids that people are overwhelmingly good.

These are tough times for many parents who are trying to offer reassurances to their children but also know that Sandy Hook reminds us of some very uncomfortable life lessons.

Dr. Gregory Ramey is a child psychologist and vice president at Dayton Children’s Medical Center.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Marriage licenses

Walking the Americas: Woman preps for five-year trek

Jordan eager to get back in the ring with a ‘Creed’ sequel

Kalichuk – Johnson

Feeding your plants fish for Thanksgiving

Home enhancements for cat owners

Kovels antiques: Tango-dancing figurines

Designing with ceramic tile

House to home: Going from shabby to chic on a budget

Best new international designs and products from the NY Now show