Talking to Kids About the Connecticut School Shooting
Advice from Little Silver and Oceanport school administrators following Friday's tragedy in Newtown, CT.
The shooting of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday left a lot of parents wondering just what to say to their children about the tragedy.
Little Silver Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carolyn Kossack said that she would advise parents to keep the focus off the negative aspects of the massacre and instead concentrate on the monthly safety drills Little Silver students participate in at school.
"Have a conversation about what they do in school," she suggested. "Ask them about what they practice."
Oceanport School Superintendent Andrew Orefice wrote in a letter to parents on Friday, "I would kindly recommend that you take some time to talk with your child about this horrible situation and help them understand the serious nature of the monthly drills we perform at school. By doing so, we will all become better prepared during our future drills or in the event of an actual emergency."
Kossack said that it was a "horrible coincidence" that Point Road School conducted a lockdown drill on Wednesday, but stressed that those exercises give staff and students valuable tools.
She said that school officials make sure to "mix things up" for the scenarios that are posed to staff and students at both schools for monthly security drills.
"We take a proactive stance," she said, in an effort to keep all involved "on their toes."
During some of those drills, students have been exposed to police officers in "full SWAT gear."
Kossack thinks that parents don't need to initiate the conversation about the shootings with younger children and advises them to wait for children to bring it up themselves. "I wouldn't bring it up unless they do," she said.
But broaching the subject with middle school children, she said, was "very appropriate."
The Little Silver School District posted further resources for talking to children about the tragedy on its Web site Saturday morning. Here are links to the PBS Parents site and the Children's National Medical Center (also posted next to this article).
Orefice wrote in his letter, "When our students return on Monday, counselors will be available to discuss with your child their thoughts on the Connecticut situation, if necessary. Additionally, the entire staff will make every effort to address students’ concerns with thoughtfulness and sensitivity."
Point Road School Principal Dr. Pamela Albert told Patch that school staff would be ready to talk to students on Monday. "After Sandy, this could be really scary for some."
In the meantime, she shared a few articles that she thought would help parents talk to their children about the shootings.
"This is all so sad," said Albert. "As much as we think we are safe, today is a vivid reminder that we are not."