There will be time for anger later. For now, it’s time to try to make sense, and make peace of the tragedy in Newtown, CT.
Like most parents, my heart stopped when the first reports came in of the shooting that left nearly thirty people dead, including twenty children. Though it happened on the other side of the country, it felt like it was right here in town. It felt like one of many schools I’ve been to.
I say that with all due respect to the grieving families.
Many parents checked their kids out of school, or kept them home, and tried to leave the t.v. off. But at some point, we need to talk with them about it. They’re going to hear all about it in the weeks to come.
The following tips were provided by a Canyons School District school psychologist as a way of getting kids to open up about the tragedy. It also provides steps parents can follow to begin the healing process.
Reassure children that they’re safe-Schools are constantly testing and refining rapid responses to attacks and natural disasters. It’s important to know the school is focusing on the safety of its students.
Make time to talk-It’s a difficult discussion, and there is no easy way to begin it. Say something, anything, your child may just take it from there.
Be age appropriate-Some of their innocence has been stripped away, that doesn’t mean you get too in-depth.
Review safety procedures-Call your child’s school. Find out what their procedures are. Review them with your child, and when the school addresses them with your child they’ll be more prepared.
Observe and monitor a child’s emotional state-It may not sink in right away, look for changes in your child’s behavior, and address them immediately.
Limit media coverage-It’s hard to turn off, because we’re still searching for so many answers. However, keep coverage it to a minimum, or eliminate it altogether. The Hobbit just came out, that may be a good escape this weekend.
Maintain a normal routine-Nothing settles a child down more than a return to normalcy. Resist the urge to go bungee jumping, shark fishing or tattoo their name on your chest, that may scare them more. Spend some time with the kids, but stay in control.
And whether they think it’s cool or not, hug them as tightly as you can, and don’t apologize for it. A lot of parents won’t hold their kids ever again.
(It’s important to note that school counselors are readily available to discuss these issues with your kids, and children should be encouraged to do so.)
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