When you think "gang," what comes to your mind? Our Gang was a TV show featuring Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Buckwheat and Butch.. But the faces of "gangs" today is much different.
"A gang," reports the help Hotline Victims of Crime Newsletter, "is a group of people who have a common name, sign or identifying symbol, and who engage in criminal activity."
Gangs? In our area? Gangs are everywhere. Anyone can be a gang member. Children as young as 7 are sometimes used to carry or hide weapons or drugs. They are used s lookouts and drivers, even if they aren't directly involved in the actual crimes. Sexual demands also are placed on them. All gangs are not male. Girls have them, too. Some are associated with a male gang, but some are not. And girl gangs can be much more violent than the guys, not something to venerate.
The gangs aren't just poor kids or rich, neglected kids. Gangs know no boundaries, socially or economically. Everyone needs to feel connected. Children who don't feel connections to their families or to friends are good candidates for gang involvement. Many come from broken homes and don't have a very good image of themselves. These kids want to be loved, treasured, supported and to feel safe. If they don't get it from their birth family, they could go looking in the wrong placeslike gangsto have a "family."
The common thread between kids from poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods appears to be the family connection. Where do they have to go to gain acceptance, love, and to feel good about themselves? And remember the power of peer pressure.
Warning signs include, but are not limited to:
-withdrawal from participation in school, family life, church, athletics, etc.
-changes in dress, color preferences
-negative behavior changes
-major attitude with parents, teachers, authority figures
-has money and possessions more valuable than he or she can afford
-use of drugs and alcohol
What can parents do?
Spend time with your child. Even if it's not a huge amount of time, it's what you DO with the time you have, what you said to draw out your child, pat him on the back, praise her for the good job she did; things that make the child feel loved, appreciated, valued. Encouraging your child in good ways that improve how he or she perceives their "self."
Do not allow gang-related clothing, symbols, etc. in your child's wardrobe or your home. That reinforces your rules, your authority, and insists on respect from your child.
Know your child's friends and their parents. Keep an eye on your child's activities and interests and insure that your child is in a safe environment when they are at their friends' homes.
REALLY listen to your child's music. The lyrics of some songs aren't just raunchy. They are violent. You can put restrictions on the music you allow your child to listen to.
Learn how to be parents. Parenting is not an easy job. It's more important than raising a cute, little puppy. That child will need committed adults to guide them through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. That's quite a big deal, and requires good parenting skills. If you don't know what that means, you might need some parenting skills building.
Your local police department can be a point of contact related to gang activity. The Help Hotline Crisis Center Victims Services is available at 1-800-427-3606.
Parents go through a lot when they undertake the duties and responsibilities of parenting. In fact, parenting is an investment in the future, the family's future and the nation's.
Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, families and communities. For more information about our education, prevention and treatment programs related to substance abuse, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.