Editor's note: Here are a variety of resources, from Madison Youth & Family Services, from Madison Public Schools, from United Way 2-1-1, and other resources on how to talk with your child about tragedy. The Madison Public Schools have provided resources to all of their teachers, administrators and parents via email. Those resources are provided below.
"Each principal will be communicating with staff to advise everyone how to handle this tragedy next week," Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice said. "We will make any and all counselors available as needed for any students in need of services."
The town of Madison, with support from the church community, is planning a vigil Sunday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on the town green, 26 Meetinghouse Ln, Madison, CT.
The town has also asked residents and businesses to lower their flags to half-staff through at least Monday to show support for Newtown.
By David Melillo
Madison Youth & Family Services
Like all the people of Madison, our hearts go out to the people of Sandy Hook and Newtown. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy which is beyond all explanation. We wish them all the support and love they will need.
As parents, we share the difficult task of trying to figure out how we handle this with our own children.
It is not easy and there is no “one size fits all” answer. What you say will depend upon your child’s age, maturity, and anxiety level, and your proximity to the tragedy.
With younger children we worry more about inundating a child with information. Answer their questions honestly and simply. Protect them from the media, and pay attention to your own conversations in their presence. “Less is more” as long as your young child’s questions are answered.
However, some children may not ask questions and it is important to avoid assumptions about what a child might think OR feel. Younger children may act out their feelings in behavior or play and you can take your lead from what you observe.
Make clear the ways in which your children are safe, the community resources available to help them (police, fire), and how rarely this type of violence actually occurs.
Older children are more capable of processing their feelings on these issues. A direct conversation with high school aged children is certainly appropriate. However, it is important to understand your particular child. A sixteen year old with intense anxiety may not want to hear a lot about the tragedy. Realize that some people feel things more intensely than others.
Middle school-aged children are most likely to differ widely in their reactions to tragedy. Some middle school students are still young children, while others are much more young adults. The one thing that separates them from younger children is their exposure to media. Smart phones, I-pod Touch, computers, broader exposure to T.V. -all make it harder to protect middle school students from being bombarded by media. All this makes conversations more important.
Most children of all grades would consider their school as a very safe place. This event may raise questions and fears about their safety in school. If a child voices a concern or fear for their safety, it is important to empathize and share with them how you as a parent protect them, and how their school works very hard to protect them as well. Parents can work with school officials to reiterate and reinforce the ways schools protect children.
Good luck and feel free to call Madison Youth and Family Services; (203 245-5645) if you need help. We’ve included a handout from the National Association of School Psychologist, which is posted with this article.
Here is information sent out to Madison Public School's Staff:
In order to support adult efforts in communicating with children about the horrific tragedy in Newtown please refer to the following resources:
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers. National Association of School Psychologists (posted with this article, also recommended by Madison Youth & Family Services).
Helping Young Children Cope With Trauma. American Red Cross (posted with this article).
Helping Kids During Crisis. American School Counselor Association
Talking to Children about Community Violence. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Talking with Kids About News. PBS Parents
The above resources are also posted on the district website.
Editor's note: Below is some information from the experts at 211 and The United Way with additional tips on how to talk to our kids in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown:
Our hearts are with the families of those affected by today's shooting in Newtown.
United Way 2-1-1, Connecticut's statewide information and referral and crisis line, wants you to know that we are available 24 hours a day to connect families with the resources they need in the wake of this tragedy. If you or your child need assistance, dial 2-1-1, to reach call specialists trained in handling crisis situations.
EMPS - 2-1-1 is the access point for Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services, a mobile crisis line for children and youth. Dial 2-1-1 and press 1 to reach a crisis call specialist who can connect you directly to a mental health clinician in your area.
www.211ct.org - visit our website to find local trauma resources. Enter your zip code or town and search (under Search by Service Keyword) for one of the following terms: Child Guidance, Therapy Referrals, Bereavement Counseling, General Bereavement Support Groups or Crime Victim/Witness Counseling.
Click on the links below for other resources to help children cope with traumatic events.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Tips for Talking with and Helping Children Cope After a Disaster
- SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline offers a counseling option available by text: Text "TalkWithUs" to 66746. Spanish speakers can text "Hablanos" to 66746.
- National Association of School Psychologists
- American Red Cross, Recovering Emotionally