Helping Your Kids with the Newtown Tragedy
December 17, 2012
Our thoughts and prayers are wholeheartedly with those in Newtown, Connecticut during this tragic time.
We honor the teachers & administrators who bravely gave their lives protecting their students. And, we honor those sweet young children whose precious lives were so violently cut short. Each of us share in our nation’s communal grief at these great personal losses. We send our prayers for those who have departed, and for those who survived. We feel like we have lost some of our best.
On the news we see the residents of Newtown gathering together to support one another. We know they will especially need one another during this coming week, as the first funerals are scheduled for today.
You also need the support of others to deal with your own sadness & fears, and most especially to help your children.
♦ We recommend that you care for yourself, your grief and sadness, and your fears for your children, by talking & sharing with other adult family members & friends.
♦ When talking to your kids, it’s most important to remember you are the parent. Your kids need you to be calm, and provide a safe environment for them to explore and express their own feelings. They need to know you’ll be there to care for them and to guide them through their fears and grief. Your children learn from your behavior.
♦ Letting your kids know you’re sad is important. Acknowledging powerful feelings opens the way for them to tell you about their sadness and fears. Let them talk, draw, sing, paint. As you begin to understand each child’s unique needs, you can better help them deal with this tragedy.
♦ Manage family TV & internet time. Overwhelming emotions come with information overload for all of us—kids, teens and adults.
♦ Smaller children easily get confused when watching constantly re-played news reports and may think the crisis is happening all over again. They should be protected as much as possible.
♦ Teens may need special support because they have a better understanding of the tragedy. Their constant communications with friends can lead to emotional overload, and sometimes focusing on erroneous information.
Addressing your children’s school safety concerns is a high priority.
♦ Tell your kids, in age appropriate ways, the exact ways the adults in their lives are working to keep them safe. Answer their questions carefully and directly, using simple facts & examples. Tell them what the principal does for their safety, what their teachers do, what you do, and what the community and law enforcement do.
♦ Kids need a plan. Help them understand their school’s safety plan. Remind them that they go through lockdown drills. And tell them what their teachers and law enforcement will do in case of an emergency.
♦ Help them practice their safety plan.
♦ Explain to them why it is important for them to listen and follow instructions if a crisis happens.
♦ Remind them that this is a rare, unusual event. There are thousands of schools in this country that are safe. Let them know they are safe. Help them trust again.
Build emotional resiliency.
♦ Be sure to kiss your children and hug them. Tell them how important they are to you and to your community. Tell them you will always love them.
♦ Make sure each child knows they are a valued member of your family, and of your community.
♦ Let each child know their strengths and what they offer as an individual. Perhaps your child loves playing soccer, or loves to read, learn math, or another language. Your child may be exceptionally kind, helpful or inspire others. Your child may be lovable, or makes people laugh.
♦ Whatever their special qualities, be sure to tell them to your children repeatedly and in the company of others.
♦ Your family rituals can really create a true sense of comfort and belonging. Explaining them can make a real difference. You can say something like this, “Before we leave in the morning I always give you a kiss & tell you I love you. Let’s keep doing that."
♦ Use this holiday time to reinforce your family’s holiday rituals, confirming further your children’s sense of comfort and belonging. Remind them of special meals you have each year, how you get together with other family members and friends, how you are grateful for these special times together.
Providing your children with love, understanding and support can be one of the greatest gifts you give them. We wish you all the best during this difficult holiday season.
Tell your family and friends how they can help protect children with news and updates from the Polly Klaas® Foundation.
Sign-up for monthly updates from the frontlines of child safety & missing children.
c. 2012 Polly Klaas® Foundation, 312 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952