I lay awake at 3 a.m. this morning, wondering if the parents whose children had been killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut were also awake, too shocked, too grief-stricken, too afraid to close their eyes, lest they wake up and find this was not a horrible nightmare.
“There, but for the Grace of God, go I" routinely comes to my mind at times like these. Yesterday’s events are a stark reminder that no one is immune from random violence -- not at our movie theaters (Aurora), not at our places of worship (Oak Creek, Milwaukee), not at our public rallies (Tucson), and not, sadly, at our schools (Columbine, Ricori High School).
While the most impacted and traumatized are, of course, those families and friends who lost loved ones in yesterday’s shootings, this is a crisis for all families, for all schools, for all communities – a national tragedy.
What can we do, amidst the acknowledgement of our precarious nature, that there but for the Grace of God goes each of us? That any one of us could be a Newtown family, grieving the loss of a little child or a loved one who worked at the school?
For schools, Monday morning will come fast. Parents will say good-bye to their children, releasing them into our uncertain world, trusting that schools are taking care of them. Kids will return to class, many aware of Friday’s calamity. There are numerous things schools can do, including:
- If schools haven’t already, acknowledge what’s happened.
- Remind kids and families that you have procedures that are designed to protect kids, faculty and staff. They might be well-aware of your lock-down drills and the like, but reminders reassure.
- If there is some aspect of your crisis response plan that needs works, nail it down now. The importance of crisis planning has never been more obvious than now. Back in September I wrote an article here entitled “Dusting off school crisis plans . . .” where I encourage schools to pull the crisis planning binder off the shelf and give it a good, careful look, find the gaps, and fill them in.
There are many great resources for schools such as this resource at the National Association for School Psychologists website.
For parents and families, it’s okay to talk to your kids about this, and many experts encourage you to do so. The age of your child or children will dictate how much you say and what you talk about, but giving this issue some oxygen is important.
Parents can access articles at the links I provide below to help guide you through this weekend and into the coming days. Remember, fears linger, and the wounds of trauma do not heal the same for everyone. Check in with your kids and give them the space to talk and ask questions, even well down the road.
- A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx
- Talking About Tough Topics: http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/strategies_10.html#.UMwQ92uO3ew.email
- Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx
Thoughts and prayers abound for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary and the community of Newtown.
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