Joining a gang is cool, especially for a young teen who feels lost and alone in an impoverished life. To them, a gang sure does look good! A gang offers hope, identity, purpose, and even a family feel; things that might be missing at home. Many teens tend to be alienated from their own family, school, and from the community. They often feel as if they do not fit in. They are angry and confused and it’s not a wonder a gang appears to represent what is missing.
There’s a large number of kids today who are raised in a single-family home and the majority of those are raised by their mothers. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative in 2017 there were more than 19.7 million children living with no father at home (Durden, 2019). That’s 1 out of 4 kids without a father image. This is a crisis. Unfortunately, peers and older gang members begin to fill that void and it’s not a wonder a gang appears to represent what is missing.
A gang may appear to be a safe haven for a vulnerable child who has little love or support and no father at home, but it’s only a fantasy.
ARISE shares this premise, but unfortunately cannot magically give each child the gift of a dad or a supportive family. That would be a fantasy; remote from reality. Yet, youth today continue to join gangs because they falsely believe a gang represents what is missing in their life.
One size does not fit all situations. Let’s face it, siblings who grow up in the same family tend to become very different people. The same with at risk youth; a deficit in the home does not always result in joining a gang. There are other factors to be considered.
This is why gang prevention education is critical.
Gang prevention goes beyond what is missing in the home. Self-esteem, conflict, stress, and anger management are some of the elements entwined with the family situation. For example, if a child’s self-esteem is low, what happens at home will push a child towards a gang quicker. On the other hand, if a child is more resilient with a stronger core, they will not go in search of what’s missing. Instead they learn to make the best of their situation and strive to be better; rather than be a victim.
The focus of ARISE is to empower and educate those willing to listen. Our book, Gangs: 50+ Stories of Fractured Lives, is a great resource included in our Gang Prevention Program, as well as our Middle and High School curriculum. Teens relate to each other more successfully than they do listening to an authoritative figure. The Gang book is a collection of stories, which gives a troubled teen the ability to read peer written emotional experiences and imagine how life might be different if another direction is taken. The reader gains clarity of what life would be like if they journey down the more difficult path.
Awareness is the key. When a teen is aware of their choices, actions, and consequences, their self-esteem increases, conflict is minimized, and they learn to more easily deal with stress, worry, guilt, fear, and even success.
When awareness is sparked, the void begins to close, opening the door to constructive conversation. The pieces begin to fit together.
Ultimately, awareness and conversation are needed to help prevent a teen from joining a gang. Gang prevention education does work!
By Karen Clark Nagy, July 31, 2019
To learn more about gang prevention and drop-out prevention, anger management, self-esteem, and so much more, be sure to check out our Gang Prevention program, and our High School, and Middle School curriculum packages. It’s up to us to ARISE to the challenge; to provide the missing pieces to help fill that void.
ARISE depends on donations to continue to empower our youth. You can help us by making a charitable donation. Thank you for your support.
Durden, T. (2019, June 16). Visualizing The Father-Absence Crisis In America. (Blog post).