In light of recent tragic events in Oregon and Connecticut, I feel prompted to express some thoughts on the matter. First of all, events like this thrust the importance of family into the spotlight, the heroes through tragedy, and sadly, the fallen. It has caused me to reflect on my job as a mental health associate, and above all, our kids and their safety. It is also an opportunity to realize the importance of mental health and the role it plays in our society. I am not saying tragedies such as Sandy Brook can fully be prevented, nor do I choose to discuss my political view on gun rights at this time, but I believe that this is an opportunity to educate ourselves and one another on mental health for not only adults, but catching it in children at an early age. I am not pushing personal views on medication, but I do believe therapy and intervention can help, but I feel the role of mental health starts at home. When did our society become that of entitlement? Why did money and material items become more important than showing our children the bright things in life like embracing the outdoors, local parks, picnics on the beach, or simply board games, movies, and family nights? I realize not every family has the same financial opportunity as the next, but it simply lies in being there for your children; just asking how their day was at school, turning off electronics (adults included), having a conversation over dinner, even if that is a frozen pizza, and tucking them in bed at night. Family can look like many different roles such as grandparents, aunts & uncles, foster parents, or friends. Do your kids justice this holiday season…don’t give them every toy or article of clothing they ask for on their list, give them your time and attention. Mental health starts at home. Educate yourself and those around you. Know when to intervene and act and seek advice. This does not mean you are lacking parental skills or you have failed your child. It simply means you are able to realize there are limitations to what you can do. Kids need leadership and discipline. When did we allow them to make the choices for us? Take the time with your children, share stories, laugh, and most importantly, LOVE above all else… Hug them every chance you get, reassure them, discipline them, be there to pick them up when they fall, allow them to fall at times, let them make mistakes and learn from them, and get back to the simple things in life…your faith, whatever that may be, instill that in them, turn off the TV, hold them accountable, teach them ethics and responsibility, let them know they won’t win every game they play, teach them to take turns, instill virtues of good by being the example, set the bar high, give them expectations and chores, let them get dirty while playing outside, teach them to laugh at funny situations but not people, build character, and get back to the basics of goodness, trust, compassion, honesty, generosity, and most importantly…Love.