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VIEWPOINT: America the senseless
by Sarah Toce

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Twenty children and six adults were announced dead Dec. 14 after an open fire shooting spree at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Parents and loved ones waited outside anxiously to see if their child was one of the casualties.

At 3:15 p.m. ET, the president of the United States wiped away tears as he delivered an address to the nation on the tragedy.

Let's talk childhood development.

The average 5-year-old is beginning school for the first time. By the end of the year, the average 5-year-old uses past, present and future tenses accurately; recalls and can repeat a sentence of at least eight words; and talks in complex sentences that often run together.

The average 6-year-old are working to understand more about what "big people" do—discoveries that make them feel both confident and confused. During this age, a child tends to have a very vivid imagination. Because of this, they tend to cling to the comfortingly familiar as well as look ahead eagerly to new things.

The average 7-year-old is mature enough to form his own opinions about many things. He looks to peers and other adult authority figures to inform his ideas. But his parents firmly remain the shining lights in his universe. Sevens still like to cuddle, hold hands and show their affection in ways that typically vanish (at least in public) over the coming years.

The average 8-year-old is firmly in mid-childhood, fun years of remarkable capability and quick learning coupled with a pretty agreeable personality and growing self-sufficiency. She will grow at about the same rate as in the last two years: an average of 2 to 3 inches and 3 to 7 pounds each year. Baby teeth continue to fall out and larger permanent teeth come in.

The average 9-year-old starts to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships. It becomes more emotionally important to have friends, especially of the same sex. He begins to experience more peer pressure and become more aware of his or her body as puberty approaches.

The average 10-year-old faces more academic challenges at school. She becomes more independent from the family and begins to see the point of view of others more clearly. She has an increased attention span.

The children affected by the shooting in Fairfield County Dec. 14 were between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. Many of them still had their baby teeth and had notes pinned to their backs for their parents to read when they arrived home from a day at school.

The face of violence has changed in America. Let the children who were killed senselessly Dec. 14 serve as a reminder that there is still so much work to be done regarding gun control, mental health funding and support services. While we argue and fuss over the so-called "fiscal cliff," we're losing control of our very communities and livelihoods. Things do not change by will alone, it is through action that courage transpires.

Be courageous,

Sarah Toce

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