All our hearts go out to all the families in Newtown, CT tonight, and for the months and years to come, for the unthinkable, barely speakable loss they endured today.
As is most everyone upon learning of the news of the school shooting, I’m shaken. And as a parent of early elementary-aged children, the more so. As many, I am stopping every few minutes or so to take in a deep breath and send another prayer (my sort) to the families and community immediately affected.
Our kids left school without knowing, and we don’t watch the news in the background in their earshot, so my partner and I have tonight to sort through the initial shock and think about how to approach the subject with them.
My kids’ school principal–herself a (lesbian) mother of two kids exactly my kids’ ages, 5 and 8–sent us these resources.
- Mental Health America: Helping Children Cope with Tragedy Related Anxiety
- This resource breaks down approaches for preschool, grade school, and adolescent-aged children, which I found very helpful.
- Child Development Institute Parenting Today: How to Talk to Kids about Tragedies in the Media
- This resource isn’t broken down by age group, and its presumption is that the child is already to some degree aware that something very upsetting to others has occurred. Within that context, it has many useful (perhaps even intuitive) suggestions.
- Chicago Now’s Tween Us: Sandy Hook School Shooting: How to talk to kids about tragedies
- This is a blog, published by Chicago Now, written with tweens in mind, and it’s a synopsis of several other resources, through the eyes of the author. She includes a list of other links at the bottom of the piece.
If any of you reading has another resource you feel would be helpful, please by all means share it in the comments.
[added late Friday night, 14 Dec]
Here are some further resources. I’ll continue to add to this list as/ if I become aware of something that addresses a need not met by the resources here.
- Kristen Howerton, at the blog Rage Against the Minivan: five things to consider before talking to your kids about today’s tragedy
- Kristen lists five questions she asked herself as precursors to or contextualizers for conversation with her kids. Really helpful about this post is that it addresses something those of us who are parents of young kids are asking: Whether to even broach this topic at all, if we feel it’s possible they won’t hear about it elsewhere. There’s the rub, of course. It helps to see the conversation in the comment stream and get an idea of how other parents are approaching similar questions, and why.
- Brené Brown’s blog, Ordinary Courage: prayers for the sandy hook elementary school community
- Brené lists some additional resources which are worth noting. I particularly appreciated The American Academy of Pediatrics’ list of resources, which span those for parents & teachers, for students (e.g. Stress Management Guide for Teens), and for schools (e.g. Tips for Talking to Children After a Disaster, written “for parents, caregivers, and teachers). This last one–Tips–is the most helpful of the resources I’ve seen, because it specifies the reactions kids at multiple developmental stages might have to trauma: helpful, since we often won’t know what they’ve overheard or what others will have said to them or in their presence. Also Talking to Children About Death, compiled by a hospice organization from a talk before an Australian health advisory organization, is meticulously detailed, authoritative, and sensitive, again, breaking down possible responses by developmental phases, something I think is key for all of us.