While so many Americans have recently spent time decorating their homes and wrapping gifts, there were at least twenty six families within a small Connecticut community who did not have the same energy and enthusiasm for holidays that they might have just a few weeks ago. I would imagine most folks in Newtown were struggling to understand and trying to find words of comfort that seemed elusive. It is difficult for adults to find sanity in uncertain times. For the hundreds of children who live in that town as well as so many others across the nation, it is barely comprehensible to find any sense or meaning from this event.
Schools should be safe havens, a place where children come to learn and grow. Weapons and violence have no place anywhere in a school or near young children. Yet despite that fact and a security system that was in place, an evil force with unwanted pain arrived at that school and destroyed lives. The only solace that we have in the situation is that trained and responsible adults reacted exactly how they had been instructed to do. While they were not able to save every child and educator at Sandy Hook, there is no doubt that more lives would have been lost if they had not done their jobs.
As a nation, we mourn for those who lost their lives. And even if we wanted to isolate our young children from the aftermath of this tragic event, far too many of them have already heard about it and they are asking questions that may be difficult to answer. If your child has been shielded from the information, that is fine but if not, you may want to consider the following suggestions in helping your child cope with the information:
• Communicate with your child: It is important to answer your children’s questions in a way that will not scare them. Do not give them more details than they need but rather try to answer the questions in a straightforward and simple manner.
• Encourage your youngster: Help them to understand that it is okay to feel sad or fearful. Many people are feeling the same types of emotions right now. Expressing our thoughts help us to work through these emotions and begin to heal.
• Empower your little ones: Review safety rules at home and school. Consider enrollment in a safety course or sport such as Tae Kwon Do or Karate. Hopefully they will never need to face an emergency situation in which these skills would be useful. Giving a child the gift of confidence and the ability to remain calm under pressure is definitely a benefit.
• Consider the resources available: If your child seems to be more preoccupied with the tragedy than what is normal or if their fear is preventing them from participating in otherwise safe activities, consider speaking with a professional counselor or their teacher for advice.