Christ-Centered Easter Activity Countdown- 2019

Time to get inspired for Easter!  With Easter being April 21 we will start our countdown on Friday March 29th.  A lot of these will be repeats from last year but I’m also going to incorporate some of this year’s activity from the Friend Magazine.  They don’t start until Palm Sunday so I won’t be going along day by day because I like to give Easter as much attention and preparation as we give Christmas.  I hope this helps you as you make your Easter preparations more intentional.

  1. Friend The Miracle of Easter (Day 2) “When Jesus was a boy, He lived with Mary and Joseph in a city called Nazareth. He always did what Heavenly Father wanted Him to do.”  Date with Dad- It’s our ward’s Father/Son camp out but you could substitute any activity with Dad!
  2. Friend (Day 3) “When Jesus grew up, He went to the Jordan River. He asked His cousin, John the Baptist, to baptize Him. Then He began to teach others about Heavenly Father.”  We will have cousins in town so we’re going to party with cousins, but you could also attend a baptism if possible.
  3. Jesus is the Light of the world.  Use trick candles on cupcakes, as the kids blow them out and they re-light explain that even though they tried to put out Jesus’ light, his light did not go away.  (Got this from The Joy Journey, scroll down, it’s one of the last activities, this is also a great resource for ideas!)
  4. Jesus created the World for us- visit a zoo or aquarium to see some of His creations.
  5. 2018 Friend activity #3– “Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus felt pain and was terribly thirsty. He understands whenever you feel sick or tired or hurt. Jesus wants us to help others who are ill or tired. What can you do to help someone in your family who isn’t feeling well or is very tired?”  Serve someone who has been ill (take a meal, make a card, take treats to the hospital, etc.)
  6. Read the Easter Story from this month’s Friend Jr.
  7. He is Risen cut and paste, there’s also a tracing one
  8. Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey- go to a petting zoo with a donkey
  9. Resurrection Eggs for toddlers
  10. Jesus continued His church by calling a Prophet.  Read about President Nelson in the Friend and watch General Conference.
  11. Friend Jr. Life of Jesus Christ Sequencing activity.  I will put each picture in an egg and make it an egg hunt and then sequence and talk about each part of Christ’s life.
  12. 2018 Friend activity #5– “Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!”  Before he died, Jesus asked one of His disciples to take care of Mary, His mother.” Mom date!  Our ward will be having a mother/daughter activity this evening but again, this could be any fun activity with mom.
  13. Jesus prayed in a garden and after his Resurrection he visited Mary in a garden- visit the Botanical Garden (they have butterflies this time of year!!!)
  14. Jesus was the Lamb of God, make a lamb craft
  15. Easter Movie Night, we will probably watch To This End Was I Born, and one of the VeggieTales Easter shows.
  16. Friend (Day 1)- “Our Heavenly Parents love us dearly. They want us to live with Them forever. Before we came to earth, Heavenly Father knew we would need someone to show us the path back to Him. We would need someone to save us from our sins. Who could He send to save us?”  Talk about our Heavenly Family, and Jesus as our older brother.  Explain that because they love us they gave us our Earthly Families as well.  Extended family Easter Egg hunt.
  17. Friend (Day 5)- “Some people were angry with Jesus because of His teachings. They didn’t believe that He was the Son of God. Jesus knew it was almost time for the greatest miracle of all. Jesus gave His disciples the sacrament to help them remember His sacrifice for us. Then He went with some of the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He prayed to Heavenly Father, and He felt the pain of all of our sins. He did this so we could repent and return to live with our Heavenly Parents.”  Take the sacrament at church.
  18. Friend (Day 6)- “After Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, people came with swords to arrest Him. They took Him to Pilate, the governor of Judea. Then they took Him to a cross on a hill called Calvary.”  Make palm frond crosses- my little brother will grab some extra palm fronds for us from the Palm Sunday service at the Episcopal church he attends.  Here’s a simple tutorial.
  19. Friend (Day 4)- “Wherever He went, Jesus taught and helped people. No one had ever seen anyone do miracles like He did! He healed people who couldn’t walk and people who couldn’t see. He blessed children and taught people how to pray. He even brought a girl who had died back to life. What greater miracles could there be than these?”  Do a service project to be a miracle for someone else.
  20. Easter Sequencing Activity– this one focuses just on Christ’s death and Resurrection- the other one I’m using covers His whole life.
  21. Show a picture of Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet, then wash each others’ feet in a foot spa or just in the tub.
  22. Make an “Easter Garden” in a pot with some little plants, a rock for the tomb, etc.  Mine will be much simpler than the one in the link, but it gives a good idea for reference.
  23. Make Resurrection Rolls, and tell the Easter story as you do it
  24. Friend (Day 8)- “Jesus really did live after He had died, and so will we! He visited with His disciples for 40 days. He ate with them and talked with them. What a joyful time it was! Then He asked His disciples to meet Him on a mountain. He told them what they should do after He went to heaven. And He gave them a promise that He would always be with them. This wonderful promise is for us too!”  Use a glove and your hand to explain the Resurrection.  I explain how I do this in my Family Home Evening post for this month.

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- April 2019

President Nelson promised us that if we would really dive in to this home based church supported thing that it would “unleash the power of the family.”  I saw that really clearly at the end of February.  President’s Day weekend we went to have dinner at my parents’ house while my aunt was visiting.  My grandma was not doing well and my aunt had come to see her.  After dinner we gathered my little family, plus my parents, aunt, and my little brother into my Grandma’s living room to do Family Home Evening.  We discussed John 3:16 and while my Grandma couldn’t say much, her attitude and the way she lit up as the kids made Valentine’s for Heavenly Father was a quiet way for her to bare testimony of God’s love, and the importance of family.  Guys, that’s the last time I saw her alive.  She passed a week and two days later.  And while part of my grieving process is asking myself why I didn’t just make the drive over there one more time, I am also so grateful that that was our last moment, and her last moment with my kids.  Our last earthly experience together was spent following the prophet, learning of Christ, serving her, and just loving.  That’s the power of the family that we need to unleash.  So keep going, you never know which week is going to have an eternal impact on your family.

April 1-14 Thou Art the Christ

Prep Materials: Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.), Priesthood keys (either print the printable or gather up some extra keys), Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Song: The Priesthood is Restored pg. 89

Teach children about Priesthood keys.  Show them your key ring and let them use the keys to open the front door, turn the car on and off, open filing cabinets, etc. (whatever keys you have lying around).  Explain that these are things that are special and important to your family so they need to have keys so not everyone can get inside.  Talk about what might happen if you didn’t keep them locked.  Have a different set of keys (either from the printable, baby keys, or just some extra keys from around the house) explain that Heavenly Father refers to the Priesthood power as being keys to things that are special and important to him, and that the Prophet who has all of the keys has the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Gather pictures (either from the printable or the gospel art library) of baptism, confirmation, the temple, temple marriage, and the sacrament.  Explain that these are the things that are special to Heavenly Father that you need his special keys- the Priesthood- to perform.  Match the key to the ordinance.

Priesthood Keys Matching

 

April 15-21 O Grave, Where is Thy Victory

Prep Materials: Glove, Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Song: Pick one of the Easter songs, they start around page 64- my kids’ favorite is Easter Hosanna pg. 68

I love using the glove and hand object lesson to teach about death and the resurrection.  We starting teaching our son this idea at Easter 2 years ago and then reviewed it when we realized my Grandma’s death was imminent a little over a year ago.  I was surprised then, at 3 1/2 how much he understood and how it helped him process what was going on.  My other Grandmother passed about a month ago and he has been using this analogy on his own to explain what is happening.  I do make sure as I’m explaining this concept that while Jesus came back to life after 3 days, our loved ones will come back to life and we will see them again in the Resurrection, but that will not be for a very long time.  One of my Grandpa’s died when I was 5, and I knew that he would come back to life so I didn’t understand why everyone else was so sad.  I remember a few years later realizing that he hadn’t come back and honestly feeling a little betrayed.  It’s a wonderful, beautiful, and comforting thing to understand the Resurrection, but I think it’s also important to help children understand that it is sad when someone dies because we won’t see them for a long time.

Sorry about the tangent, if you haven’t done or seen the hand and glove thing here’s how it goes.  Since it’s Easter have pictures of Christ’s birth, Christ in life, in the Garden, on the cross, and the Resurrection on hand- the gospel art book has these.

Explain that your hand is like your spirit, wiggle it and talk about the pre-earth life.  Show the picture of Christ’s birth and explain that when you are born you receive a body, put the glove on your hand- the glove is like your body.  Show that they can now wiggle and move together.  Show a picture of Christ when he was grown and explain that our bodies grown with us.  Show Christ in the garden, explain that sometimes our bodies feel pain and that we can use our bodies to pray.  Show Christ on the cross and explain that he died for us.  Take the glove off and put it in a tomb (under a bowl or something), explain that when we die our body stays here on earth and can’t move anymore but our spirit goes to Heaven and waits.  Show Christ resurrected, explain that after 3 days Christ was resurrected and because of that, someday (a long time from now) we will also be resurrected, put the glove back on.

 

Click for my post full of Christ-centered Easter ideas

 

April 22-28 What Shall I do to Inherit Eternal Life?

Prep Materials: Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Song: I’m Trying to be Like Jesus pg. 78

Help the kids act out the story of the Good Samaritan, break out the doctor kit for some bandages to put on the injured person.  Take turns acting out the different roles.  Talk about ways we can help people and be good neighbors to everyone.  Make plans to do something nice for someone who needs it.

 

April 29-May 5 I Am the Good Shepherd

Prep Materials: Stuffed animals (lambs), any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

Song: Little Lambs so White and Fair pg. 58

More acting practice!  Grab some stuffed animals to be your lambs and put them somewhere they can be “guarded”.  Take turns being the shepherd (guarding), wolf and robber (trying to get the animals).

 

Materials List:

Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.)

Priesthood keys (either print the Priesthood Keys Matching or gather up some extra keys)

Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Glove

Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Stuffed animals (lambs)

any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

 

 

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- March 2019

March 4-10 Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole

Prep Materials: bandages (or toilet paper), laundry basket/ sturdy box, blindfold, robe

Song: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus pg 57

Use pictures, Bible videos, and acting out to tell the story of some of Jesus’ miracles.  Pick and choose your favorites/ what your children would enjoy and relate to best, or spread this over multiple nights.

Heals a leper- wrap the kids up in bandages (or toilet paper) to look like a leper

Stills a tempest- use a laundry basket or large sturdy box as the boat, turn on the Bible Video or the Animated New Testament Story, shake them around during the storm then stop when Christ calms the sea

Man sick with the palsy- show the picture at the end of manual and tell the story (unless you want to lift your kids in the air and lower them down!)

Blind men- use a blindfold to cover their eyes as you read them the story in Matthew 9:27-29

Jairus’ daughter- have a child lie down and explain that the family was told that their daughter had died but Jesus came, touch her hand and say, “Talitha cumi.”  Explain that it means, “Daughter, arise.”  Have the child get up.

The woman with the issue of blood-  Tell the kids that there was a woman who had been sick for a long time, she heard about Jesus and thought that if she could just touch His clothes she could be healed.  Have a parent dress up in a robe (anything long that can trail behind a little), have the kids reach out and touch it as the parent walks by and then say, “who touched me?”  Finish up the story explaining that she was healed after she touched his clothes.

 

March 11-17 These Twelve Jesus Sent Forth

Prep materials- back packs, heavy objects (rocks/books)

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love pg 74

Fill backpacks with heavy objects, have the kids put them on and try to walk around.  If it’s still too easy for them add more weight.  Then help lift the backpack and walk with them.  Ask them if that’s easier.  Explain that burdens are hard things in life (help them come up with some hard things they have to do), then tell them that Jesus said he will make our burdens light.

 

March 18-24 Who Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

Prep Materials: Blindfold, ear plugs

Song: Reverently, Quietly pg 26

Sing Do As I’m Doing, Children’s Song Book 276.  Do a few rounds normally, taking turns with who decides the action.  After a few rounds pull out a blind fold, take turns wearing the blind fold and trying to follow along.  Now attempt to do a sing along of favorite primary songs but take turns using ear plugs (or have a parent cover their ears).  Talk about how it was hard to follow along when they couldn’t see or hear.  Paraphrase Matthew 13:13-16.  Talk about how we need to use our eyes and ears while being reverent to learn about and follow Jesus.

 

March 25-31 Be Not Afraid

Prep Materials: laundry basket/ sturdy box, blanket, picture of Christ

Pull out that laundry basket boat from a few weeks ago.  Use a blanket to make waves.  Have the children act out the story by stepping out of the boat into the waves, pull the blanket up towards their face to symbolize sinking.  Hold up a picture of Jesus, when they look away from it have them “sink” when they look at the picture pull the blanket back down and then reach out a hand to help them out.  Show them the picture at the end of the lesson, remind them that when things get hard or scary Jesus will help them.

 

Materials List

bandages (or toilet paper)

laundry basket/ sturdy box

blindfold

robe

back packs

heavy objects (rocks/books)

ear plugs

blanket

picture of Christ

 

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Feb 2019

Can you believe it is already time to start preparing for February?!?  How are you adapting to the new schedule and new curriculum?  I’m still kind of weirded out by the short schedule, granted I’ve still been at church at least 4 hours between choir practice and conducting Ministering Interviews, but at least it’s not 5!  At home the kids are doing pretty well with Family Home Evening, but admittedly our plant that we planted for the Sower lesson is already dead…  I’m not sure what happened, plenty of water, plenty of sun, maybe too much sun? maybe it froze over night?  I don’t know, luckily keeping plants alive is not a pre-requisite to Salvation because I would be burning in the bad place!

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response to last month’s post, and if you’re new this month then welcome.  I was shocked, amazed, humbled, over-joyed (basically had all the feels) when January’s FHE post hit 1,000 views in the first 24 hours, and about 3,500 views total.  So thanks for reading and sharing, but even more I’m so grateful and glad to know that we are in this together to help teach and inspire our kids.

If you’re looking for more ways to make February meaningful with your kids check out my Family-centered Valentine’s Activities.

But on to Family Home Evening!

Feb. 4-10 For the Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Prep Materials: masking tape, preferred toys and treats, picture of Christ, picture of Sun, big prize or treat

Song: Choose The Right Way pg. 160

Create a path through your house- masking tape on the floor works well.  Review the story of Christ being tempted.  Tell the kids they need to stay on the path to get to the special prize at the end.  Place some of their favorite items or small treats just out of reach from the path.  Have one parent be the “Holy Ghost” reminding them to stay on the path and the other one try to get them to step off.  Have a picture of Jesus and a picture of the sun to represent the Celestial Kingdom at the end.  Explain that returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is the best gift we can receive, and then give them a prize or favorite treat.

 

Feb. 11-17 Ye Must Be Born Again

Prep Materials: pre-made Valentine with picture of Jesus, supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

Song: As  I Have Loved You pg. 136  or God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son Hymn #187

Make a big Valentine card for your kids from Heavenly Father with a picture of Jesus in the middle.  Read John 3:16 together and explain to the kids that Heavenly Father showed his love to us by giving us Jesus.  Now have the kids make Valentines for Heavenly Father and Jesus.  I’ve made a simple printable with pictures they can glue on to Valentines, you could also encourage them to draw some of their own ideas.

Valentines for Heavenly Father

Feb. 18-24 Blessed Are Ye

Prep Materials: flashlights, candlestick (an actual one or made out of a paper towel roll or pvc pipe to fit the flashlights you will use), bushel (either a basket or a small box will work), pictures or objects to find

Song: I Am Like a Star Shining Brightly pg. 163

Pull out those flashlights from last month again!  Hide a few objects or pictures for them to find.  Read/ summarize Matthew 5:14-16.  Take the kids outside in the evening or in a dark room in the house.  Mom or dad should go first with the flashlight, turn it on and look around for a second and then place it under your “bushel” and keep trying to guide them.  Take turns being the light, give them the option to use a “candle stick” or a “bushel” as they guide the family to find things like a picture of Jesus, scriptures, a picture of Pres. Nelson, the temple, etc.

 

Feb 25-March 3 He Taught Them As One Having Authority

Prep Materials: containers (tupperware or casserole dishes), large rock, sand, small houses (you could just draw or print them on paper or make them out of legos), pitcher of water

Song: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man pg. 281

Using two large containers place a large rock in one and a pile of sand in the other.  Make two small houses.  Sing the song together and place the house on the rock, when you get to “the rains came down….” pour water around it.   Repeat for the sand.  Discuss what happened to the houses.  Read Helaman 5:12 together and talk about how you can build your house on the Rock of our Redeemer.

 

Combined Materials List:

masking tape

preferred toys and treats

picture of Christ

picture of Sun

big prize or treat

Valentine with picture of Jesus

supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

flashlights

candlestick (paper towel roll/pvc pipe)

bushel (basket or a small box)

pictures or objects to find

containers (tupperware or casserole dishes)

large rock

sand

small houses

pitcher of water

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Jan 2019

Can I just say how excited I am for this Come Follow Me curriculum.  There’s a lot of reasons:

  • studying the same material across age groups
  • home focus- which goes right along with some of my feelings about deliberate parenting
  • multi-modal learning- it’s making my educator heart sing
  • lots of opportunities to use my laminator- also making my teacher heart happy 🙂
  • FHE whenever works best for your family (which relieved all of the guilt I have had about having community choir on Monday nights!)
  • Family Home Evening ideas!

I keep thinking I should film the craziness that is Family Home Evening at our house but my 4-year-old is typically in his underwear and I’m not going to put that out there for the internet.  It’s kind of a circus and I’ll admit that I have gotten to the point of yelling, and threatening, and time out.  I’ve been better recently about keeping my patience and the kids have been a tiny bit better about listening.  One of the things I noticed was that they could smell fear and lack of preparation; the weeks where we were just throwing something together went really badly.  The past few months we started just using the Behold Your Little Ones manual, and that’s when I noticed that things started getting better and I think it has everything to do with my husband and I having a plan and being organized.

With the new curriculum I want to get even more organized and I figure if I take a day and get everything prepped for the coming month then we can have super low stress family home evenings after church on Sundays.  And if I’m already doing the work, I figured I’d share with others and hopefully make things a little easier for you as well.  So I’ll give you ideas for how to take what’s in the curriculum and make it work with little ones, and at the end of the post there’s a combined materials list for the whole month.

Dec. 31- Jan 6  We are Responsible for Our Own Learning

Prep Materials: plant, rocks, thorns/weeds, pot for planting, print/ laminate sower game

Song: Faith pg. 96

Lesson: Review the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:1-23.  If you are a super overachiever you could plant seeds ahead of time in rocks, among weeds or thorns, and in good ground and compare how they have grown.  I’m not so good at the growing things from seeds thing, so I’ll probably just fill a cup with rocks, show the kids the weeds in the front yard (maybe pull some while we’re at it!), and buy a plant already growing in good soil.  We’ll compare how things grow in different types of soil and talk about needing to listen well at home and at church so we can learn about Jesus really well.  Then we’ll  dig a hole (a favorite activity for my kids), put our new plant in, water it, and get it some sunshine (but not too much!).

Activity: Sower game

 

Jan 7- 13 Be it Unto Me According to Thy Word

Prep Materials: Christ’s lineage print outs, Pictures of ancestors, optional names and titles for game

Song:  Family History- I Am Doing It pg. 94 (or go to the Family History Section in topics, there’s a surprising amount of songs in this category)

Lesson: Christ’s lineage is laid out.  Below you will find an attachment with His ENTIRE lineage, do with it as you please depending on your kids’ reading and comprehension level.  Then there are pictures that just have His most famous Ancestors.  I plan to print those out, laminate them, and turn them into ornaments.  I will do the same with pictures from our own family tree.  I’m just going to go ahead and leave our Christmas tree up until we get to this activity, but you could make a tree out of paper, or just do the activity on the floor.  We’ll first talk about Christ’s lineage and then put our own family tree together.

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Christ’s Lineage (this is the entire lineage given in Luke 3 as a list, if your kids can read and have a decent attention span you may want to put the names in a bigger font and print them to put together as well)

Activity: Let the kids play with the print outs.  I am going to print out 2 sets of our ancestor pictures and Christ’s lineage pictures and play a simple memory game.  If your kids can read you may want to have them match the picture with the name and title (great grandma, great-great grandpa, etc.)

 

Jan 14-20 We Have Come to Worship Him

Prep Materials: Kid friendly nativity set

Song: Picture a Christmas pg. 50 or Nativity Song pg. 52

Lesson: Hopefully they remember a lot from having just gone over the story, it’s like Christmas Eve round 2!  Use a kid friendly nativity set, if you don’t have one, you might be able to find one on clearance right now, or, I just have this little printable set.  Put the characters (yes even the animals) in a bag and have the kids pull them out at random then talk about that character’s contribution to the story.  Then have the kids tell the story the best they can (probably good to have the camera ready!!)

Activity: Just let them play with the nativity!

 

Jan 21-27 We Have Found the Messiah

Prep Materials: Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want), Objects to find (could be church related, could just be for fun)

Song: Teach Me to Walk in the Light pg. 177

Lesson: Explain that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Either make a room in your house really dark or wait until it’s dark outside.  Give the kids a flashlight (you could tape a picture of Christ to it to help with the visual), then send them on a scavenger hunt.  You could do church related things like a picture of the Prophet, scriptures, church clothes, etc. or just fun items, or a mixture.  The final item could be some sort of Celestial treat!

 

Jan 28- Feb 3 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Prep Materials: two mason jars, food coloring, water, bleach AND/OR a tea bag (with a string), a cup with water, a lighter

Song: When I am Baptized pg. 103

Lesson: You could do either of these object lessons or both to teach about baptism

#1- super simple and guaranteed to work.  Fill a mason jar with water, the other one with some bleach.  Talk about mistakes that we make and drop food coloring into the water with each mistake.  Then explain that when we are baptized our sins are washed away- dump the bleach in and the water will return to clear.

#2- sorta complicated, and sometimes it doesn’t work quite right- you should definitely do a practice run!  We used to do this on the mission a lot and would turn it into kind of a story and get really into it- until our mission president told us we had to stop playing with fire, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have that conversation with a set of sisters, but it’s really cool.

Take a tea bag (it can be any kind of herbal tea but the bag needs to be the kind that is folded in on itself with a staple and a string (as opposed to sealed around the edges) and preferably individually wrapped)

Tell the kids that the bag wants to get to heaven but it can’t.  Toss it up in the air a few times to show that it can’t get there.  It will need to go through some steps to get there.

1- It needs to have faith so first off it’s gotta leave the comfort of it’s wrapper (or box if they aren’t individually wrapped).

2- Now it’s out but it still can’t get there, put your finger on the string to “weigh it down.”  Explain that it’s going to need to let go of the things holding it back by repenting.  Take off the string.

3-  Toss it up and down again, see that it’s doing better now but still can’t make it to heaven.  Even though it repented and let go of the weight it still has some things that need to be washed away.  Carefully take out the staple and empty the contents into a cup of water and explain that baptism washes everything away (but do NOT get the bag itself wet!)  Now you should have a tube, carefully stand it on one end.

4- Explain that now it’s standing taller, it’s getting closer, but it still needs one more thing, the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes the scriptures call this the baptism by fire because fire also purifies.  Light the top end of the tea bag tube on fire and as it burns it should suddenly float into the air “up to heaven!”

Activity: Set up a washing station in the sink or bathtub with toys that are dirty.

 

Full materials list for the month

plant

rocks, thorns/weeds

pot for planting

Sower game

Pictures of ancestors

Names and titles for ancestor matching (optional)

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Kid Friendly Nativity Set

Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want)

Scavenger Hunt objects

2 mason jars

food coloring

water

bleach

AND/OR a tea bag (with a string)

cup with water

lighter

 

 

Christ-Centered Easter Countdown

You may have seen my Thanksgiving and Christmas Circle activity posts in the past.  I meant to get one together for Valentine’s Day, but then my grandma died in mid January, and while it was very peaceful, funeral arrangements and travel made life a little crazy for a few weeks so unfortunately we didn’t get around to much for Valentine’s Day.  In case you haven’t seen the other holiday activities posts, a little background- this idea came out of a prompting that I needed to be more deliberate in my parenting and in teaching my children the true meaning of Christmas and Easter, and to bring purpose to each holiday we celebrate.  With little to know effort on my part my kids will learn about the Easter Bunny and get an unhealthy amount of candy, but to teach them about Christ’s death and resurrection will take deliberate effort on my part.

I do 24 activities because then I can re-use the same muffin tins as my “advent” calendar for each holiday, with Easter coming pretty early this year, that means that we are starting on March 9th.  Also my kids are 18 months and 3 so this is very targeted to toddler/preschool, but would be easily adapted for older kids.  I’ve also provided links when I have used someone else’s idea and those links have tons of activities that work for older kids.

I took several ideas from the Friend magazine, but decided not to go in the exact order they did just because some activities worked better with our family schedule on different days, and I did not include the coloring activity because it’s a little more coloring than my kids could handle.  But, if you’re kids are more in the 5 and up range it would be a perfect and simple activity already put together for you.

For the most part I do these activities during the day and they are super short, however, if an activity is listed as being part of Family Home Evening that means it will be a little more extended and with the whole family.

Here’s the activity list:

  1.  Friend activity #3-Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus felt pain and was terribly thirsty. He understands whenever you feel sick or tired or hurt. Jesus wants us to help others who are ill or tired. What can you do to help someone in your family who isn’t feeling well or is very tired?
    Make a card for a friend who has been sick
  2. Washing feet- we will do this with my foot spa, but last year we just did it in the tub, We show a picture of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles and then we wash each other’s feet.
  3. Make Resurrection Rolls
  4. Family Home Evening- Friend Jr. Life of Jesus Christ Sequencing activity.  I will put each picture in an egg and make it an egg hunt and then sequence and talk about each part of Christ’s life.
  5. Friend activity #5– Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!”  Before he died, Jesus asked one of His disciples to take care of Mary, His mother. What can you do to show love for a family member today?
    Do a craft for a family member.
  6. Easter Movie Night, we will probably watch To This End Was I Born, and one of the VeggieTales Easter shows.
  7. Friend activity #4– Jesus said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  When Jesus felt alone, He prayed and told Heavenly Father about His sad feelings. You can pray too! Try talking to Heavenly Father today like you would to a best friend.
    Review how to say prayers.
  8. Jesus is the Light of the world.  Use trick candles on cupcakes, as the kids blow them out and they re-light explain that even though they tried to put out Jesus light, his light did not go away.  (Got this from The Joy Journey, scroll down, it’s one of the last activities, this is also a great resource for ideas!)
  9. Jesus loves our Family- Cousin Easter Egg hunt at grandparents’ house
  10. Jesus started the sacrament- take the sacrament at church
  11. Jesus is the Lamb of God- make a lamb craft with cotton balls.
  12. Easter Sequencing Activity– this one focuses just on Christ’s death and Resurrection- the other one I’m using covers His whole life.
  13. Family Home Evening- Friend Activity #6– “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” This is what Jesus told another man who was about to die. Because of Jesus, death is not the end! We will all go to the spirit world and then be resurrected someday. Who has died that you look forward to seeing again?
    Do the Resurrection glove activity (put your hand inside a glove and explain that your spirit is like your hand and your body is like the glove, take the glove off and explain that when you die your body stays on the earth but your spirit goes to Paradise and waits until the Resurrection when they will come back together.)  We’ve done this before and it helped my son a lot with understanding my Grandma’s passing.
  14. Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey- go to a petting zoo with a donkey
  15. Resurrection Eggs for toddlers (if you have older kids and just search Resurrection eggs there’s a lot of resources that are more age appropriate, I was just so excited to find this one that is so simple for my littles)
  16. Jesus prayed in a garden and after his Resurrection he visited Mary in a garden- visit the Botanical Garden
  17. Palm Sunday- make hand print Palm fronds out of construction paper
  18. He is Risen cut and paste
  19. Make an “Easter Garden” in a pot with some little plants, a rock for the tomb, etc.  Mine will be much simpler than the one in the link, but it gives a good idea for reference.
  20. Family Home Evening- Friend Activity #7–  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Jesus forgave those who hurt Him. We should forgive other people too. Is there someone you can forgive?
    We’re going to focus on forgiving between siblings.  They’ve reached that age where they are seriously bugging each other on a regular basis.
  21. Friend Activity #2– Jesus said, “It is finished.” Even though what Jesus was doing was really hard and hurt a lot, He didn’t give up. He kept on doing the right thing because He loves us and He loves Heavenly Father. Sometimes we might feel like giving up, but we can choose to keep trying. What’s something hard that you have done lately?
  22. Attend the Easter Pageant at the Mesa Temple.  Non-Arizonans might be able to find a local church that does a Passion play.
  23. Jesus continued His church by calling a Prophet.  Read about President Nelson in the Friend and watch General Conference.
  24. Easter Day- Friend Activity #1–  Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus knew that He would see His Heavenly Father again after He died. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can also live with our Heavenly Parents someday! What’s something you can do today to follow Jesus?

As far as Easter baskets go, again if you search there are so many good ideas for Christ-centered baskets, from actual Christ-centered items to adorable printables with scripture related sayings to go with candies and toys.  I like to keep it really simple, and know that we’ll get candy and little toys from other sources, so we will probably get an Easter related book and an Easter related movie and call it good.

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope this helps you brainstorm some good ideas for your family as your prepare to celebrate this beautiful holiday.

Gun Violence: A Multi-Faceted/ Bipartisan Approach

I’m not sure why this particular school shooting has lead me to deeper contemplation than others, maybe it’s that a piece of my heart stayed in Florida after serving an LDS mission there, maybe it’s that I have a 3rd degree connection to the shooting (the daughter of a friend of a friend was shot and miraculously survived), maybe it’s that my own son is getting closer and closer to school age, maybe it’s that now I blog and I felt the need to share my voice.  It’s probably a combination of all of the above.

I didn’t want to just post reactively, because that just tends to get people more entrenched in their own way of thinking so I set out and did a decent amount of research.  Now by no means am I touting myself as an expert in this.  I did not research EVERY major shooting in recent years.  I do not know or understand all gun laws.  I have a very basic knowledge about guns in general.  But, I do know more about all of these things now than I did a few weeks ago.

My biggest suggestion to everyone is to go into this with an open mind and do some unbiased research of your own.  My research challenged a lot of ideas I had, it strengthened some of my opinions, and ultimately left me with a lot more questions.  That’s probably the definition of good research.

I hope people from all sides will read this, consider the ideas, do some more research, and ultimately work towards solutions rather than the stalemate we have put ourselves into.

Why are we so outraged by mass shootings?

When a mass shooting occurs it suddenly becomes a news and social media sensation.  It’s as if the instant it occurs it becomes a trending story, memes about gun control/ gun rights are immediately shared, online arguments ensue, someone asks if we can all just get along, and probably someone shares some statistic about why there are bigger issues we should be outraged by.

So, here’s some statistics we should keep in mind.  Mass shootings account for only about 1% of gun related deaths, and yet they get the bulk of the media coverage.  In 2013 gun deaths accounted for 1.3% of all deaths in the United States.  So mass shootings account for about 1% of 1% of deaths annually in the United States.  Also, more than half of those gun related deaths were suicide rather than homicide.

According to the CDC’s stats from 2015, of the 2,712,630 deaths that year in the United States, 23% were caused by heart disease.  That’s almost a quarter of deaths each year.  But I rarely see an outrage over this.  Next is cancer at 22%.  Now I do feel like there is a general fear of cancer among Americans.  In case you didn’t already add those two numbers together, cancer and heart disease make up for 45% or almost half of the deaths in America each year.  Put down the cheeseburger and the unorganic food and back up slowly.

There’s a pretty significant drop off percentage wise down to 3rd place at 6% which goes to chronic lower respiratory disease, which is typically caused by smoking or even second hand smoke.  Cigarettes should have us in the corner peeing our pants.

4th place goes to accidents (predominately car accidents) at 5%.  Driving is something most Americans do EVERY DAY.  Typically without a second thought to the fact that it is the 4th most dangerous thing you can do.  I don’t have the specific stats on how many of those were caused by drunk driver’s or other accidents involving alcohol, but they are included in this stat.  But more than cars and alcohol, Americans report themselves as being afraid of snakes, sharks… and shootings.

For the record, homicide does not make the top 10 list, but suicide does, in 10th place following strokes, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia, and kidney disease.

Ok, so maybe this isn’t a fair way to look at our outrage meter because those stats do take in all age groups, so a lot of those people were really old so maybe it was their time and as I pointed out in my post about the death of my grandmother, those deaths aren’t necessarily an outrage.

So let’s break those stats down a little more.

Among white males suicide jumps up to 8th place or 2.6%, homicide is still not on the top 10.  Among black males homicide is the 5th leading cause of death at almost 5%, which was only 50 fewer individuals than the number killed by strokes, and about 2,700 less than were killed in car accidents (6.5%).  Suicide did not make the top 10 list for black males.  Among Latino males, suicide and homicide both make the top 10 list at 2.6% and 2.4% respectively.

Neither suicide nor homicide made the top 10 lists for any of the groups of women.

So statistically speaking, women have little reason to be afraid.  White men don’t need to be afraid of other people, only of taking their own life.  Hispanic males should be a bit more scared.  And black males ought to fear homicide at the same levels I suggested we all be afraid of driving.

Again, these stats are including all ages, and still for almost all of these group, heart disease was the number one killer, if not heart disease then cancer.  So what if we look at age groups, where people are significantly less likely to die in general.  What if we just look at untimely deaths.

For all groups ages 1-44 accidents are the leading cause of death.  About 30% of deaths for each group, except for the 15-24 year olds which jumps up to 41%.  Among 5-14 year old suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death with 7% of deaths, homicide ranks 5th with 5%.  Among 15-24 year olds (our high school and college age group) suicide ranks 2nd with 18% of deaths, homicide is a close 3rd with 15%.  Among 25-44 year old suicide and homicide drop down to 4th and 5th place with 11% committing suicide and 6% by homicide.

Now of course not all homicides or suicides are committed using a gun, but guns did account for 67% of homicides and over 50% of suicides.  According to the Academic Journal of Epidemiology, of those who have attempted, 90% who use a gun are successful.  More attempt using other means such as cutting or drug overdose, but only 3% of those cases are successful. And among attempted homicides, according to data from the Western Surgical Association, gun shot wounds (at least to the heart) have an 84% chance of death whereas stabbing victims have a 30% chance of death.

So what we can deduce is that, while other means are of course used, guns are the most lethal.  This also applicable when comparing statistics with other countries.  According to the American Journal of Medicine, the US has a homicide rate 7 times higher than the average for other populous developed countries with a gun related death rate 25 times higher.  Which means that other countries must have a higher percentage of deaths by other means.  It’s not that other countries don’t have issues with violence, they just have less issues with gun violence which results in fewer deaths in general because they are more likely to survive the violence if it was not committed using a gun.  I did not find a statistic for overall violent attempts between countries, which I think would be an important statistic to find and consider in the debate for solutions.

Now to get this back into perspective, I gave the stats for how many deaths are accounted for by homicide and suicide, but that still doesn’t tell you how likely people are to die by these means without knowing the deaths out of total population.  Here’s where some math gets a little tricky because the census stats I found did not break down into the same age groups as the cause of death stats and the census stats are from a few years earlier than the cause of death stats.  These specific stats are another thing I think need to be looked at in greater detail and accuracy, but for the sake of perspective, here’s what I could piece together.  As of 2010 there were 166,786,747 individuals aged 5-44 years old.  The chance of dying of any cause in this age range sits at about 1%.  In 2016, 20,189 people in this age range committed suicide or .01% of the population.  Homicides accounted for 12,789 deaths in this age range, or .007% of the population.

If we look at just the high school and college range, those most likely to commit suicide or fall victim to a school shooting, the stats remain at .01% for suicide, but comes up to .01% for homicide.  Remember the stat from earlier that mass shootings only account for 1% of these gun related deaths.

I give these stats not to suggest that this is not a problem, or that we ought not to be outraged but to put in perspective that the chances of being killed are very small.

So then why are we SO outraged by mass shootings when they are statistically a small problem in general, and still considerably smaller than other problems related to gun violence.

I’m about to make some uncomfortable assertions, so hang on.  I’m not saying that this is how EVERYONE feels, or by any means that they are morally correct reasons, and by and large these come from my own observations not from any sort of research.

The Media

An NRA spokeswoman said, “Cable news loves school shootings.”  Think about it, when a disaster of this nature occurs, it plays continuously and everyone tunes in (at least everyone with cable).  Every day shootings, well, they happen every day so they don’t spike ratings so they don’t often report them.  But with a mass shooting their ratings spike, and the more they spike, the more they cover it.  The more they cover it, the more outraged we get.  We begin to fight on social media about it.  We can’t seem to let it go.  And, while I’m not into conspiracy theories, here’s one that’s fairly verifiable.  Russian Twitter accounts posted loaded and inflaming comments both for and against gun control immediately after the shooting.  So when you hop on and immediately social media is full of arguing and memes claiming that the other side is irrational and how dare they say that.  They DIDN’T SAY IT!  A Russian account said it to try and divide us, and we fell for it.

Privilege, Choice, and Prevention

There are some indicators that put people at higher risk of falling victim to gun violence.  These include having a prior criminal record or living in a poor urban.  Let’s combine those indicators with the other statistics and look at my risk factors which are probably similar to most of my readers.  I was born white and female, since that gives me an advantage when it comes to gun violence, that would be considered privilege in this situation.  Coming from a middle class background is also a privilege.  The financial and educational choices that my husband I have made in conjunction with this privilege have allowed us to purchase a home in a reasonably middle class neighborhood.  Not having a criminal record is based on the choices that we have made not to commit crimes, but there is certainly an amount of privilege based on our upbringing to have helped with those choices.  Considering all of these factors, my family is avoiding and preventing almost all of the risk of being shot.

So when I hear about someone being shot in a gang fight, or even if they were shot as an innocent bystander but in a neighborhood very different than mine I don’t really relate to it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not upset by it, or that by any means I think it is ok.  But I move on with my day rather quickly because I’m so removed that I can’t really put myself in their shoes.

But with mass shootings, particularly school shootings, I CAN relate.  I’ve been a student, I’m a parent soon to send kids to school.  And there is nothing about my privilege or my choices that can prevent being a victim of a mass shooting.  They don’t care about race, neighborhood, or background.  I can’t even say don’t be a bully because they don’t just target the bullies.  They shoot at EVERYONE.  And in a place where we ought to feel safe.  And while the statistic is still so low, how can know which school (or concert or club) will be next.  It’s scary because what if it had been my school growing up, what if it had been my college classes, and most frightening of all, what if it is the school where my children go.

That is what causes the outrage.

What do we do about it?

Here’s where we all start fighting and we get really ugly.  I’ve seen people from both sides say that they would be willing to have a rational conversation if only the other side would be willing.  For one, that’s immature, be the example and the bigger person.  For two, most people are willing to have a rational conversation, remember how the most offensive comments that appeared to be entirely irrational came from Russian accounts.  They are trying to divide us, because when we are divided we are weak and nothing can be fixed.  Only when we take a deep breath, calm down, and have honest and rational conversations on this, and any topic for that matter, will we be able to get anywhere.

So let’s start by stopping.  Stop posting things that put the “other side” on the defensive.  Stop assuming other people’s intentions or intellectual ability.  Stop jumping to conclusions that suggestions are impossible.

There will be some very difficult questions that will come up.  Rather than shutting down because of a difficult question, let’s be willing to find answers and solutions.

Here are some of my suggestions, and they are by no means perfect, I recognize that a lot of questions would need to be answered and determined, but I think they could at least help the situation.

Reform Gun Laws

I am by no means in favor of getting rid of the second amendment, or collecting everybody’s guns.  And while there are people that do hold this view, they are few and far between.  According to a poll done in 2004, 31% of Democrats own a gun.  So my Republican friends who like to share things about Democrats wanting to take away their guns, please stop, because it’s not true.

Let’s take a look at that second amendment, shall we:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The opportunity to hunt is not specifically protected, nor is the opportunity for self protection, although we should not take that to mean that they are not allowable.  The opportunity to be a part of a WELL REGULATED militia is what is specifically protected.  The intent is that if there is a credible threat to the security and freedom of the State that it will be able to militartize it’s people in a well regulated fashion.

While I’m not suggesting that we adopt the same rigorous requirements for gun ownership that the military does for it’s recruits, if a group of people is going to defend my state I would prefer they were of sound mind and without criminal history as part of being a well regulated militia lest they turn on the State or it’s people.

Currently there are some regulations about minimum ages to purchase and those that have been convicted of violent crimes or institutionalized for mental health concerns.  Here’s a few items I feel could be reformed while maintaining the balance of being well regulated and the rights of the people.

Raising the age limit

I am in favor of raising the minimum age for the purchase of all firearms to 21.  We have agreed to 21 as the legal age to purchase alcohol due to the risks involved, it makes sense to me then to raise that limit on weapons as well.  Would this completely solve the problem, no definitely not.  A lot of the shooters I researched were over 21.  But, while our laws about alcohol have not prevented all underage drinking, or all drunk driving accidents, our laws are not complicit with giving alcohol to people who are too young to make such serious decisions.  Likewise raising the age for purchase of weapons gives the message that this is a serious decision in which we are entrusting “the people.”

Restricting access to those with mental illness, violent tendencies, or criminal behavior

In every case that I researched, all of the shooters had known mental health concerns.  At what point should a mental illness preclude a person from owning a gun?  This is one of those really difficult questions that needs to be addressed.  It’s going to be difficult to research and determine, but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned.  A quick search for statistics on anxiety and depression gave numbers all over the place from 18% of adults experiencing anxiety and depression, but 13% being treated, up to another group reporting that 40% of adults have anxiety or depression.  Whatever the number is, there are a lot of people who experience at least mild anxiety and depression symptoms, do we ban all of them from owning a weapon.  Probably not.  But I do feel that it needs to be expanded to more than just those who are institutionalized.  And maybe not forever, it could be a temporary suspension, say 5 years, and then with doctor’s approval could be reinstated.

As for violent tendencies and criminal behavior, Nikolas Cruz had a history of killing animals, this is known to be a gateway to worse violence later in life.  Additionally, according to information retrieved via the Freedom of Information Act, the local Sheriff’s department had received at least 39 calls in regard to Cruz over the last decade.  Certainly that should have been enough to have him on the “no go” list for buying guns.  Maybe some of his infractions would have gotten him in the NICS database if they had been reported correctly.  I know warnings are given and sometimes officers don’t want to jump to giving someone a criminal record in hopes of rehabilitating them, but if that was the case, they did not do him or anyone else any favors.  So this might be more procedural reform than legal reform, but this type of behavior needs to be taken seriously, reported correctly, and should prevent the purchase of a gun.  Maybe a juvenile record shouldn’t prevent someone from ever owning in the future, but there could be a time frame with no other incidents before the right is restored.

I also suggest that school personnel (including Universities) ought to be able to report mental health and violent behavior concerns directly to the NICS database.  Similar to being mandated reporters for Child Protective Services.  The school knew that he had attempted suicide, and he had been expelled for fighting.  In my mind these are 2 definite reasons to restrict someone from buying a gun.  Similarly, in the incident at Virginia Tech, the University counseling department was aware of concerns that ought to have been reported.

But what if someone reports falsified information?  This type of thing happens with CPS reports, there is precedence for consequences to those who falsify reports maliciously.  Also there could be the opportunity for appeal, and as I’ve mentioned in many cases the restriction might be limited rather than permanent as long as there are no further concerns in a given time period.

But they’ll just get their weapons somewhere else.  Maybe.  But the fact of the matter is that, with the exception of Columbine and Sandy Hook, the rest of the shooters I researched obtained their guns legally.  The Columbine shooters obtained their guns through an illegal private purchase, which brings up another legal issue to be considered.   In the case of Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), his mother obtained the guns legally and then left them lying around her house, so while he didn’t technically obtain them legally, he had very easy access.  I used to use this argument, that they would just buy them somewhere else, but now that I realize that in most cases they obtain them legally I feel differently.  While that is still a concern, and changes to these laws are by no means a full solution, I am disturbed that our laws have been complicit in these individuals obtaining guns.  While they may just go to the black market, at least we will know that we did not facilitate their actions.

Consider that if someone really wanted to rob your house they could find a way to do it, despite locks, alarms, etc.  There’s a whole genre of films dedicated to people finding ways to break through top security.  So while someone could just break a window and rob me blind, I still lock my front door, because I am not going to make it easy for them.

Schools

I think there needs to be more done logistically to protect schools.  Yes it will be expensive- but I’m sure at least some parents would be more than happy to donate money to help defray those costs, as opposed to buying wrapping paper or candy bars to help with I don’t even know what those fundraisers were used for.

What that is going to look like for each district and each school is a little too individualized to address, maybe it’s metal detectors, maybe it’s limiting access except through the office, maybe it’s more resource officers, maybe it’s a combination.

But Sandy Hook did lock doors and limit access and Adam Lanza just shot through the glass.  Yes, that’s something to take into account, and again why it will need to be determined on the local level of what will be practical.  This also is not a full solution, none of these suggestions are, but hopefully in combination, through a multi-faceted approach, we can prevent more incidents or at least slow down a shooter.

How about arming teachers.  This is one that I go back and forth on.  As a former teacher, I did not sign on for being willing to die defending my school.  I have the utmost respect for the teachers who have put themselves between a gunman and their students, but is it fair to ask me to choose between protecting my students and going home to my own children.  I know police officers do that every day, but they are trained and they knew the risks when they picked the job.

On the flip side, I was a classroom teacher when the shooting at Sandy Hook occurred.  When I learned of the event, then went back to my classroom and looked at my entire wall of windows, the thought occurred to me that if someone chose to come to our school with a gun, I would be entirely powerless to do anything.  If I took my students with severe disabilities into my office and locked the door, there was still a window that could be shot out and then we would be huddled all together with nowhere to go.  We could try to run, but how would I get 11 students who were at this school due to severe behavioral concerns to suddenly decide to just follow my directions and run with my staff and I.  I realized that most likely we would all be dead before the police had an opportunity to arrive.  In that moment I felt a desire to be able to defend myself, or at least have someone present who could do SOMETHING to defend us.  We did not have a resource officer- but a lot of good that did at Stoneman Douglas.

I don’t know if arming teachers is the right choice, but if we are going to consider that avenue it needs to be voluntary but well regulated, and maybe it shouldn’t be guns, maybe tasers lest we turn innocent students into accidental victims.

Overall schools need more resources to stop letting students fall through the cracks.  We need more school counselors and psychologists to do handle mental health and behavioral concerns so teachers can focus on their job- teaching.  If a teacher notices an issue they should have proper reporting channels, but the actual reporting and follow up on the issue should go through counseling or social work departments.  While these positions exist, they are overworked and underpaid just like everyone else in the education field which does not give them a lot of opportunity to follow up on concerns.

But all of those suggestions are really expensive!  Yep.  So we’re going to have to sacrifice the money somewhere else in the budget and/or tax something- maybe guns.  This is going to require a significant amount of bipartisan cooperation and compromise, but that’s something that needs to happen not just about this issue but everything, especially education budgeting.  So instead of quibbling about it being hard, let’s sit down and figure it out.

Home and Community

This is where I think the biggest changes need to occur.  And this is not something that can be legislated.  Seeing how I just spent time discussing legislative and logistical suggestions, obviously I am in support of those, but they are band aids, and while band aids have an important role in the healing and protecting process, they do not get at the root cause of the issue, they will just hopefully do some prevention and protection once someone has hit the point of wanting to take lives.  Ultimately this needs to come down to taking a deep and honest looks inside ourselves, our homes, and our society to determine what is causing people to become shooters.

Gun ownership by household has actually been on the decline in recent years.  According to the General Social Survey in 1970s roughly half of households in America owned a gun, in 2015 it had fallen to 32%.  Individual gun ownership went from 31% in 1985 to 22% in 2014.  While there are other surveys that show some different numbers, none of them have shown an increase in household or individual gun ownership.  While the overall number of guns owned has increased, this would suggest that those who do own, own multiple, but the numbers of those who choose to own is dropping.

According to private research done by scholars from Harvard and North Eastern University from 1982 to 2011 mass public shootings happened at a rate of once every 200 days.  From 2011 to present, that rate has dropped to once every 64 days.  The rate has more than tripled.

If mass public shootings are increasing, but overall ownership is decreasing, gun ownership is not the root cause of this issue.

So what has changed that might be causing more and more people to become so violent?

Just in my lifetime (I was born in the late 80s for reference), I have seen some major changes in our society and overall culture.  I might throw in a “back in my day” so be warned.

Life plugged in

Video games have existed fairly mainstream for most of my life but they were pretty new so today’s 30 year olds were the first group to really be raised on video games.  We started out with really crummy graphics and games like Mario where we jumped on creatures’ heads to destroy them.  There were probably games with blood and guns, but they would have looked really cheesy.  You also couldn’t play ALL day because your system would certainly overheat, so we still spent a decent amount of time playing outside as siblings and with neighbors.  It didn’t take too long to get better and better graphics and more and more games with guns and blood, and less overheating allowing for longer and longer playing sessions.  I remember when my older brother was in Jr. High my mom started to be concerned about which video games to let him play because some of them apparently started to have sexually explicit material.

About this same time, the internet went and got itself invented and mainstreamed.  This opened up a whole new world for gaming.  Graphics were still not amazing, especially if you ever wanted it to load, but now you could play with friends without leaving your house or having them over.  This also opened up a lot of doors for the pornography industry.  Porn at your fingertips without the awkwardness of going to the store to buy it, you just had to be patient enough to let it load.

Somewhere along the line the internet got faster, the graphics got better, and more and more of our daily tasks moved online.  We can work over the internet, we can shop, we can keep up with our friends, and all this without ever having to leave home.

Then we took it a step further and put all of that on our phones as well, which don’t even remotely resemble what a phone looked like back in my day.  Now I can be constantly entertained, shop, access whatever content I feel like accessing, and tell myself that I am socializing from my couch, room, or toilet and unless someone specifically comes and looks over my shoulder, they will have no idea what I’m doing, and I can do it for hours on end.

There are so many amazing things that have come from access to technology, but it can also become a terrible trap.  Marriages and lives have been destroyed over excessive gaming and pornography.  Concerns are being raised over a correlation between high rates of social media use and depression.  Other researchers find a correlation between violent video games and emotional desensitization.  In general we are becoming less connected to each other because we are so consumed by technology.

My concern is that with how virtual our society has become, we are losing touch with the value of human life.  In a virtual world we can manipulate things and people with the click of a button, if we mess up, it can be fixed.  If we die we can just wait a minute and come back to try it again.

But it isn’t life, or death, or people, or even things.  They’re just images and code.  I fear that with so little being done in reality we are losing touch with it.  When you look at it that way, it’s not JUST the extremely violent or sexually explicit content, it’s when anything virtual begins to consume our life and take up more of our time, energy, and priorities than reality.

Most of the shooters I researched did engage in excessive gaming, and most spouted racist and misogynistic rhetoric.  It makes sense to me that if, in conjunction with mental illness, you repeatedly engage in extreme violence virtually you could begin to picture yourself completing the act in reality.  It makes sense to me that if you are always the hero in the game, that you could be the hero in your own mind no matter the situation.  It makes sense that if repeatedly with the click of a button you can make women give you sexual gratification, that you would have little or no respect for women in reality and feel that women owe you.  It makes sense to me, that if most of your interactions are with images with no real value, that you might forget the value of human life.  It makes sense to me that if you can just restart the game after you die and all of the other characters also come back, that you might begin to lost touch with the finality of death.

I realize what I just said was very controversial and a lot of people will disagree strongly.  A lot of people play violent video games and do not turn into murderers.  A lot of people view pornography and do not become rapists or embrace misogynistic values.

But consider this.  While video games may not be causing violent tendencies, they certainly are not teaching our children how to value life, how to interact respectfully with others, or how to love, they are at best neutral.  Pornography is certainly not teaching our children about consent, it’s not teaching them that sexual intimacy is about love, respect, and admiration.  While some may claim it is harmless, it certainly is not teaching them how to show respect to women.  You can argue whether or not social media is what it causing depression and higher suicide rates, or if children with depression are just more likely to use social media, but excessive social media use certainly isn’t helping them.

Parents- we need to PARENT.  I’m not suggesting that we raise our kids under a rock and never let them online.  What I’m suggesting is that we need to be more present and more involved.  We should set boundaries on screen time and the type of media we allow them to access with a family media plan.  We should be monitoring what our children are accessing so we can help them process what they are seeing, and guide them if/when they access material that they shouldn’t be accessing.  We should do activities with them.  We need to teach them both by word and example how to value life, how to love, and how to show respect.  This can be done through regular family nights in which you discuss an applicable topic and then just spend time together doing fun activities to build a bond.  We need to turn off the TV, set down our phones, and interact.  If we don’t take that active role, other influences will fill it that may not be teaching them the things we want them to learn and emulate.

We need to be willing to get them help when we notice a problem beyond our capabilities to handle.  Having a child with depression doesn’t mean you did something wrong, or that they are weak.  But if we as parents are too weak to be willing to get them help, then we will have done something wrong by them, and potentially by other people.

I was shocked when reading about the shooters at Columbine to find out that they were building bombs, buying and practicing shooting guns, and their parents were completely unaware.  Maybe this is naive of me because I have not raised teenagers, and as far as teenagers go I was a pretty innocent kid.  But, I doubt they were having family dinner together.  I doubt their parents were checking in on their internet use.  That’s not called snooping, it’s called parenting and should be part of a media plan.  I doubt their dads were taking them fishing so they could have a chance to bond and talk about life.  It’s never too late to start, but it’s definitely easier if you start earlier, and will help fewer kids fall through the cracks of parental negligence.

Multi-faceted

None of my suggestions are a full solution in and of themselves.  We can’t regulate how parents are raising their kids, and in the unfortunate case of Jacob Cruz, he had lost his parents.

Stricter gun laws may prevent or slow down some would be shooters, but if determined enough, they will find a way to gain access to a gun.

Making schools more difficult to target is expensive, controversial, not very practical in the University setting, and does not address other .

But, if we combine the power of these multi-faceted approaches, hopefully we can make a difference and save lives.

 

Suggestions and Concerns

I am very open to other suggestions or your concerns about my suggestions, I just ask that before you respond you take a deep breath and think instead of just react.  Please respond civilly.  Here’s some ways to do that, “I respect your thoughts about_____, my concern is that______”  “While I understand where you are coming from, have you considered that_______.”  “What are your thoughts on _______.”  “I disagree and fear that ________ could lead to _________.”