Geneva School District 304, Mill Creek Elementary School Principal George Petmezas, Western Avenue School Principal Ron Zeman and others are offering some resources for talking points parents can use to discuss today's tragic events in Newtown, CT.
At least one gunman attacked a suburban Connecticut elementary school Friday, killing an estimated 26 people, including 18 children, law enforcement sources said.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Adam Lanza, 20, is the primary suspect. Previously, his older brother, Ryan Lanza, was mistakenly named as the shooter by law enforcement. The boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, worked at the school as a teacher and is presumed dead, the Tribune reports.
Some reports place the number of dead at 30.
"Today we have learned of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut," Petmezas said via 304 Connects. "Our hearts go out to the families of this community as they try and make sense of such a tragic situation. As principal here at Mill Creek Elementary School and a parent of a pre-schooler, I can’t even begin to imagine what this community is going through at this time. Our district and elementary staff have spent many hours these past couple years preparing for these types of emergencies. Events such as these certainly put the training and policies we have in place into perspective."
Zeman offered similar words of concern and advice.
"I realize that you are more than capable of talking to your child about this and may choose to handle this differently, but wanted to at least provide something to you in the event you would find any of it helpful," he said.
Zeman shared a PDF of a report by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Here are some of the highlights:
Talk about the shooting with your child. Not talking about it can make the event even more threatening in your child’s mind. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible even to speak about or that you do not know what has happened.With social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, text messages, newsbreaks on favorite radio and TV stations, and others), it is highly unlikely that children and teenagers have not heard about this. Chances are your child has heard about it, too.
Start by asking what your child/teen already has heard about the events from the media and from friends. Listen carefully; try to figure out what heor she knows or believes. As your child explains, listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns. Understand that this information will change as more factsabout the shooting are known.
Gently correct inaccurate information. If your child/teen has inaccurate information ormisconceptions, take time to provide the correct information in simple, clear, age-appropriate language.
Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer those questions directly. Your child/teenmay have some difficult questions about the incident. For example, she may ask if it is possible that it could happen at your local school; she is probably really askingwhether it is “likely.” The concern about re-occurrence will be an issue for caregivers and children/teens alike. While it is important to discuss the likelihood of this risk, she is alsoasking if she is safe.
Do give any information you have on the help and support the victims and their families are receiving. Let her know that the person responsible isunder arrest and cannot hurt anyone else. Like adults, children/teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it. Having question-and-answer talks gives your child ongoing support as he or she begins to cope with the range of emotions stirred up by this tragedy.
Limit media exposure. Limit your child’s exposure to media images and sounds of theshooting, and do not allow your very young children to see or hear any TV/radio shooting-related messages. Even if they appear to be engrossed in play, children often are aware ofwhat you are watching on TV or listening to on the radio. What may not be upsetting to an adult may be very upsetting and confusing for a child. Limit your own exposure as well. Adults may become more distressed with nonstop exposure to media coverage of this shooting.
Be a positive role model. Consider sharing your feelings about the events with your child/teen, but at a level they can understand. You may express sadness and empathy for the victims and their families. You may share some worry, but it is important to also shareideas for coping with difficult situations like this tragedy. When you speak of the quick response by law enforcement and medical personnel to help the victims (and the heroic orgenerous efforts of ordinary citizens), you help your child/teen see that there can be good, even in the midst of such a horrific event.
Be patient. In times of stress, children/teens may have trouble with their behavior, concentration, and attention. While they may not openly ask for your guidance or support,they will want it. Adolescents who are seeking increased independence may have difficulty expressing their needs. Both children and teens will need a little extra patience, care, and love. (Be patient with yourself, too!)
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