The following provides suggestions to assist students, parents, teachers and education workers as they react to the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14, 2012.
As we work through this difficult time it is important to remember that not all will be impacted by the events of Friday. Also, we must not assume that someone may not be affected. Trauma affects all of us in different ways and we must be careful not to judge or decide who may or may not be affected and in what way.
The following tip sheets from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network describe how to talk to, understand, and support, children and youth in the aftermath of a disaster.
- Parent Tips for Helping Infants and Toddlers after Disasters 
- Parent Tips for Helping Preschool-Age Children after Disasters 
- Parent Tips for Helping School-Age Children after Disasters 
- Parent Tips for Helping Adolescents after Disasters 
- Tips for Adults 
- Listen and create an environment that acknowledges all feelings. When children ask questions use age appropriate language and a calm and reassuring tone of voice. Choose what information is to be shared based on the child’s age and an assessment of your child’s need to know.
- Limit media exposure for younger children and for older children let them know that the media may be too upsetting for them to watch.
- With older children discuss how the media may desensitize us all to violence. As a family talk about how to best respond to sensationalized media coverage.
- Spend extra time with your children to help them feel safe and secure again. Determine which children will be most affected. For example children who have recently lost a loved one, are depressed and anxious, traumatized children and children who have been the victim of violence.
- Contact your family doctor or school administration if you are worried about your child and would like professional support to assist with your child’s reaction.
- Parents should be aware that being overly protective of their children is a normal response. Emotions may include: sense of helplessness, fear, anger and a heightened sense of vulnerability. As much as possible don’t allow adult emotions to negatively affect a child’s sense of security.
- Reassure children that with time their feelings of vulnerability will subside but if the feelings don’t subside to let you know and you will get them help.
Educators and other professionals
- It is important for staff to be that caring adult who listens and creates a school/classroom environment that acknowledges all feelings.
- Maintaining routines within your school/classroom will provide a sense of comfort and reassurance.
- Do not bring media coverage into the classroom as a teaching tool.
- If a student asks, any information provided should be factual with no speculation about reasons why this event occurred. If children ask questions, use age appropriate language and a calm and reassuring tone of voice. Choose what information is to be shared based on the child’s age and an assessment of your child’s need to know.
- The school administration and school staff should identify vulnerable youth. For example children who have recently lost a loved one, are depressed and anxious, traumatized children and children who have been the victims of violence.
- Any support provided should be age appropriate and based on the level of need.
- Please remember that many children will not be affected by these events and there will be those who are unaware that this tragedy has even occurred. It is critical that we prevent emotional contagion.
- Should you require consultation, please contact your superintendent or one of our mental health and safe schools support personnel (Donalda Simmons, Shelley Steele or Julie Pohlman-Brogee).
Adapted from Connecticut School Shooting: Supportive Responses in the Aftermath, by J, Kevin Cameron, M.Sc. R.S.W. B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.R., Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response
For more information, please contact:
Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer, 613-966-1170 or 1 800 267-4350, extension 2354, firstname.lastname@example.org