Faced with the unthinkable, educators and parents are forced to try to explain Friday's Newtown tragedy to their children -- searching to find a way to make them understand the inexplicable.
Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Nancy Carney sent a letter to parents Monday, explaining that counseling would be available through the week and as needed in the future, to help students and staff cope with their emotions.
"Throughout this week, and continuing on an as-needed basis, we will make our counselors, psychologists and social workers available to students and staff who need support," she wrote. "We will keep our daily routines intact to provide a sense of security and normalcy for our students. Nothing can ever erase this horrible tragedy, but we will continue to place the safety of our students above all as we recover and move forward together."
In addition, Carney posted, on the district's website, guidance by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network on how to talk to children after Friday's shooting.
The Newtown, Connecticut school , and one other victim found at the alleged gunman's home.
According to the NCTSN, the recent shooting may have sparked feelings of grief, sadness, anxiety and anger in children, and parents and caregivers need to reinforce messages of safety.
The NCTSN suggests parents and educators:
1) Start a conversation with children: Silence, the NCTSN said, is frightening to children. "Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible even to speak about or that you do not know what has happened. With social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, text messages, newsbreaks on favorite radio and TV stations, and others), it is highly unlikely that children and teenagers have not heard about this. Chances are your child has heard about it, too," the NCTSN said in a release.
2) Determine what the child already knows: Listen, and set out to correct misconceptions and address underlying fears.
3) Gently correct inaccurate information: The NTCSN suggests parents and educators "provide the correct information in simple, clear, age-appropriate language."
4) Encourage the child to ask questions, and answer the questions directly: "This may be a time to review plans your family has for keeping safe in the event of any crisis situation. Do give any information you have on the help and support the victims and their families are receiving. Let her know that the person responsible is under arrest and cannot hurt anyone else. Like adults, children/teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it," the NTCSN suggests.
5) Limit media exposure: Limit a child’s exposure to media images and sounds of the shooting, and do not allow your very young children to see or hear any TV/radio shooting-related messages. Even if they appear to be engrossed in play, children often are aware of what adults are watching on TV or listening to on the radio. "What may not be upsetting to an adult may be very upsetting and confusing for a child," he NTCSN said.
For further informaton and tips from the NCTSN, click here.