On Wednesday, March 15, students across the nation marched out of classrooms in unison for 17 minutes, representing the 17 people killed during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. At Ventura High School, 500 students walked the perimeter of the high school and ended at the football field, where a few student speakers spoke about living in a time when mass shootings have become common place. Heads fell for a moment of silence after the 17 names were read aloud, followed by a call to get registered to vote. And the students were dismissed by a shout-out that if they didn’t get back to class on time, they would get a tardy slip.

As these local young people cross into adulthood, they should be aware that if they think there is power in voting, they might need to get a clearer picture of how the elected representatives of this county are already speaking up on their behalf; local politicians tend to vote on big issues, such as gun control, the same way that students already think is right; and the power of one person, one vote is already going the way the students want for the most part, at least in California. What seems to be lacking is clear and direct communication among the general populace without ongoing interferences of so many things to distract us. It may not be a universal problem, but it’s surely a widespread one. We bicker too much about the superficial division of red and blue and all sorts of other stupid stuff, so much so that our kids are slipping through the cracks without enough people who really care to tell them, “Let’s just sit down and talk and perhaps even laugh as well.”

The dramatic displays of violence that we have seen, from Newtown, Connecticut, to Parkland, Florida, plus Maryland and Austin in just the last week, speaks to a societal ill that adults are too busy to care about. There are numerous recent studies discussing the impact of our kids growing up in the information age, with their heads buried in their phones and on the Internet, and those actions may to be blame for this big mess, but they did not just grow up plugged in. We taught them that. We have been teaching our kids to avoid meaningful honest conversations about harsh truths and the mistakes we make because that’s what our parents taught us.

From books to newspapers, TV and movies, the average family unit seems stuck in a distracted reality. We avoid conflict and confusion about our own personal lives by insisting that we always know what is right, and too many kids now have learned from us that life is nothing more than politics and getting “likes.” What is the point of this life if our kids are killing each other, or ending up with depression, with possible suicide on the horizon? On Jan. 10, at Coronado Elementary School, Sierra Vista, Arizona, a middle school student shot himself in the bathroom of the school and was pronounced dead at the scene. This is real.

We must redirect our focus onto not just our children and teenagers, but us as well, the adults who have failed the young ones, perhaps, in part, because our parents failed us. We must own the mistakes that come from the lack of communication and care, and we must help our children understand that this life matters and that it is for us to enjoy together and not to fight each other over. Until we can redirect our time and attention on cultivating relationships with each other, fighting over gun control and which politician is right serves no good purpose until we are united with each other in a meaningful way. Consider this, how many of your neighbors do you know by name?

Modern conventions should not divide us; we must turn this around and talk to each other; but pontificating about what morals and amendments are right only leads to more fights. Just stop. If we can’t respect each other and our differences, how will we ever learn to love and care? It’s not about guns or elections. It’s the lack of communication that builds walls that lead to hate and the isolation of one from another. And even worse, to mass shootings and verbal and physical fights. It’s time to talk and put the guns and slings down.