NORMAN — Dear readers: In light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, we wanted to take this opportunity to share some useful information for parents.
If your children want to talk about the situation, be open to that. They obviously have a need to get things off their chests. If they don’t initiate the conversation, you should. You can always use starters such as “what have you heard” or “how are you feeling about this.”
Our first instinct is to keep quiet about such a horrific event in order to protect them. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them in terms they will understand. You’d much rather they get information and reassurance from you than to have them hear something that may or may not be true — and also very frightening — from friends or TV.
When kids talk to each other, it’s often times scarier and less truthful. Reassuring them they can talk to you will give you the opportunity to give them the truth and calm them down.
Parents should be on the lookout for signs of anxiety such as physical ailments and school avoidance. You may not see any of this until further down the road. Let the school know your child is anxious about this tragedy, walk them into the building or drive them to school instead of them taking the bus or walking. Reassurance and routine are key elements.
Make sure they know to trust their teachers and other employees of the school. There are many drills during the year and many safety measures in place. Make sure they know to treat every drill as the real thing and not to get complacent. If a teacher asks them to go somewhere or do something, they need to do so without hesitation.
Students need to participate in their regular activities and “normal” routine. This just helps to re-establish some stability. Carrying on with daily living shows them that you are resilient, and kids of all ages learn and find comfort from their parents’ resilience.
At any time while at school, make sure your kids know they can talk to any trusted adult … teacher, counselor, coach … about their feelings, fears or apprehensions. Holding these inside is not healthy for our children.
Lastly, hug your kids and tell them you love them as much as possible every single day. Our hope is that out of this tragedy, we can all have a better grasp on just how precious and fragile life really is. If you have specific questions that come up, please email us. We will be glad to help in any way we can.
Jeannie and Sally are certified school counselors with 49 years combined educational experience. Jeannie has two children, Sally three. The responses presented don’t necessarily represent the views of any certain school district. Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.