Parenting on the Main Line

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Information for parents following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th, 2012

Parenting on the Main Line offers resources for members of Main Line Reform Temple, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and beyond.  As a source of information and professional help, we wish to support parents as they care for their children and loved ones in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

As parents, sending our children to school felt very different after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14th.  For those who may be struggling for some direction, the following information from the National Association of School Psychologists provides some practical advise.

It is important to keep in mind that an event like this is rare. Schools are one of the safest places for children and youth during the school day, and an important place for them to receive support and return to normalcy. Communication and collaboration among schools, parents, and communities is critical to ensure that our students continue to view schools as safe, caring, and supportive environments. Further, how adults react to this tragedy can shape the way children and youth react and their perceptions of safety.

Educators can reinforce students' sense of safety by making classrooms predictable and welcoming, providing access to mental health supports as needed, and connecting families with other available resources after school hours. Families are encouraged to spend time together, validate children's feelings, ask for help as needed, and find calm and relaxing activities to do at home. It is very important to limit children's exposure to media coverage, particularly for young children. If children are watching the news or accessing information online, parents and caregivers should be available to talk to their children about it.

Families and educators will serve on the frontline of helping children understand and cope with this violence and loss of life. Most children and youth are resilient and will cope well with the support and caring of their families, teachers, friends, and other caring adults. However, young children may have particular difficulty understanding and describing their feelings and emotions. Some tips to help children deal with the aftermath of today's school shooting include:
    • Provide a developmentally appropriate, clear, and straightforward explanation of the event
    • Return to normalcy and routine to the best extent possible while maintaining flexibility
    • Let children know it's okay to feel upset or angry
    • Be a good listener and observer
    • Provide various ways for children to express emotion, either through journaling, writing letters, talking, making a collage, or music
    • Focus on resiliency as well as the compassion of others
This is an extremely important time to reinforce children's natural resilience and emphasize the preventive steps that schools can take to maintain a safe and caring school environment.

Below are two websites that have a good range of information for parents, including tip sheets that break down advise according to children's age:

National Association of School Psychologists
http://www.nasponline.org

National Child Traumatic Stress Network
http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/terrorism

Here are additional links that can provide parents with tips and guidelines for action:

Local news article with tips for parents (6ABC news HealthCheck):
http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/health&id=8916822

Blog post with tips for parents (Huffington Post):
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-stiffelman/school-shooting-telling-kids_b_2302975.html

Responding to Spiritual Questions (Union for Reform Judaism):
http://urj.org/life/family/bereavement/?syspage=article&item_id=98233

How to teach gentleness in a violent world (American Psychological Association)
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/kids-care.aspx

Here are some links you can use to help the Newtown community:

My Sandy Hook Family Fund:
http://www.everribbon.com/ribbon/view/10076

Newtown Memorial Fund:
http://newtownmemorialfund.org

Sandy Hook School Support Fund (United Way):
https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/

Need additional help?

If you or someone you know needs additional support for their children or themselves, please click here to use our contact form. A representative from Parenting on the Main Line will get back to you and, if needed, try to connect you with a professional who can help.