Parents, check out our Character Education page for the new "Pillars of the Month" program!
As a parent, I cannot think of anything more horrific that the loss of a child. In the past few weeks, the Akron/Canton area has had its share of tragedy. Several young men have passed away due to car accidents. One was a result of driving too fast, and another was a result of drugs and alcohol. In those accidents where at least one child died, there were also young people who survived and will live with the memory of the accident and loss of their friend for the rest of their lives. Regardless of the cause of death, all of the families of the children involved have been forever changed.
One of those young men was a friend of my son. He was a vibrant, bright, popular, successful young man who had just begun his college experience. He was a responsible young man. But he was also an 18-year-old young man who made the choices and decisions of an 18-year-old kid! As we waited in the receiving line at the funeral home with the hundreds of other people who were trying to make sense out of a senseless death, I was overcome with the reality of what this family was facing. It really didn’t matter “what caused the accident or who was at fault or whether or not he made a bad decision at that point." What mattered now was that they had to begin to learn to live their lives without their son. It was too late to know whether or not they taught him all they wanted to teach him or whether they had instilled in him the values and strengths to make the right decisions when faced with adversity. It was too late for all of that … for them. All that mattered at that moment was how they, as a family, would get through the next moment. No parent or family should ever have to go through that. We are not supposed to bury our children. It is not the way it is supposed to be.
As the program manager for the Office of School Climate, I bring this up to remind parents that we need to talk with our children about the decisions they are making … NOW! Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to be the parent! Our job is the hardest job we will ever do, but it is the most important one we will ever do … and we only get one chance at it. We will make mistakes along the way, and that’s okay! The important lesson is that we learn and keep growing as parents and continue to do what is best for our children.
Today’s young people are faced with many more obstacles than we were faced with. They NEED our help and guidance. They need us to help them navigate through what is healthy and unhealthy for them. Sometimes they are going to need us to pick them up and re-direct them … sometimes many times throughout their journey.
Attending the funeral of my son’s friend this week touched me to the core. It reminded me that none of us are promised more than this moment. It reaffirmed that there is a force that is larger and stronger than us and one that we are not in control of. Above all else, it reminded me that we need to love and support and nurture our families every minute of every day as long as we are blessed to have them.
As we approach spring, I hope all of you are blessed with the gift of family and that all of you take the time each and every day to talk with your children about the choices they are faced with and that you work hard to keep those lines of communication open.
Merle Bennett Buzzelli, M.Ed
Program Manager, Office of School Climate
Akron Public Schools