Response to Tragedy
Dear J.B.S. Parents,
In response to today’s tragic events in a Connecticut elementary school, I wanted to share an article from Boston.com which might serve as a good resource for you and your family. Several Boston-area mental health specialists were asked how parents should talk to their children about this horrific event. Here is what they recommended:
1. Validate their feelings. “Let them understand that they are entitled to feel how they’re feeling,” said Elizabeth Stults, a licensed mental health counselor who has a pediatric practice. “They might be scared, angry, or anxious, or they might not be affected much at all since it happened far from where they live.”
2. Explain that events like these are very rare. Although parents can’t tell kids that a school shooting or movie theater shooting will never happen to them, they can stress the point that such occurrences are very rare, which is why they’re big news when they do happen.
3. Feel free to answer “I don’t know” to tough questions. Kids may ask why the shooter killed elementary school kids and teachers. Or they may wonder how God could allow this to happen. “Sometimes you have to say, I don’t have an answer to that, or what do you think?” said Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist. “Just make sure you answer honestly.”
4. Give kids a little leeway to deal with their anxieties. If a child wants a parent to walk him or her into school for a few days, try to accommodate that request. “But also explain that we can’t stop living our life,” said Stults.
5. Develop a safety plan if such an event ever did occur. This can help kids gain a sense of control. “Talk to them about what they could do if someone started shooting,” said Ruskin. “Maybe run at super-speed or hide under the chair.” Kids will feel more secure if they have a plan in mind for dealing with the unthinkable.
6. Keep the conversation at your child’s age level. “If your kid is young and hasn’t heard about it,” said Ruskin, “you don’t need to discuss it,” especially if your child doesn’t bring it up. On the other hand, parents may want to start a conversation with older kids who are likely to read the news on the Internet or hear about it from friends. “If children don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay,” Ruskin added. “Don’t make your issues into their issues.”
I also wanted to share with you the preparedness procedures we follow in the event an intruder attempts to come into our school. At least once a semester, we schedule a “Code Red” lockdown drill. Your child might have shared with you that we had such a drill about a month ago. I always share with the students that, just like we practice drills for fire evacuation and storms, we must also practice what to do if a person who isn’t making a good choice wants to come into our school and break one of our rules. An announcement is then made over the public address system that: “This is a CODE RED alert. Students in hallways and restrooms should move immediately to the nearest classroom that is occupied by a teacher or staff member.”
This tragedy leaves me heart-broken, as I know it does you. Let us all keep the families of Sandy Point Elementary School in Newtown, CT. in our thoughts.
Mrs. Candy Short
Below are some links from Terry Miller, Greenfield-Central’s Crisis Response Team leader, which may be helpful in addressing questions/concerns with your children/students about the events at Sandy Point Elementary School last Friday. Not all of these will work for all children. Please contact your child’s teacher, Mrs. Harpold or me if you need assistance.