Partners Post: December 2012
Healing our heartache
As educators, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, each of us feels heartache and sorrow following the tragedy that took the lives of 20 children and six educators last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
As we send thoughts and prayers to those who lost family and friends, we must also be mindful of our own families and loved ones. For those who are close enough, reach out and give them a hug; tell them you love them. For those out of arm’s reach, let them know they are in your thoughts and how much you care.
As a community, we try to minimize the amount of information young children hear about such senseless violence. However, for children of any age who have heard about the tragedy, please encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
Here are some suggestions that may help you prepare for difficult conversations about this or any other crisis you may face:
What can parents and families do to know their schools are safe?
- Review your school’s safety procedures. These can usually be found on the school’s website or parent handbook.
- Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they can go if they feel threatened or at risk.
How do I talk to kids about this?
- Make time to talk to children and primarily LISTEN. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient.
- Reassure children that they are safe, and that schools are very safe. Remind them that school staff work with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep everyone safe.
- The National Association of School Psychologists tells us to make sure to validate children's feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
Should we do anything differently?
- Limit television viewing of these events and news coverage. Adults should be mindful of the conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
- Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
What are some warning signs that kids are really struggling with this?
- Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort.
- In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions.
- Children who have had a traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or those with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others.
- Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
For more information, see:
Words of hope and inspiration from leaders who care about children
“It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can't do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we're counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we're all parents; that they're all our children.
"This is our first task - caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged.”
- President Obama speaking at the Newtown public vigil
“As educators, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, we share the grief of the families and the community of Newtown, and of our nation, at the senseless loss of life. There are no words to ease the anguish of the parents whose children did not come home from school and of the families of the educators who lost their lives. We can only express our sadness and our shared resolve to work together as educators to make all schools safe havens for learning.”
- Mike Crossey, President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association
Lend a helping hand
Contributions can be sent to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The United Way of Western Connecticut, in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank, created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to provide support services to the families and community that have been affected.
Students and Public Education: A Compelling New Year's Resolution for 2013
In the weeks and months to come, school safety will weigh heavily on our minds, and the minds of students, parents and school communities. In particular, as we approach the start of a new beginning of a New Year, imagine if all of us made a commitment – our individual and collective resolution - to speak up for Pennsylvania's children and public education in 2013. Let's resolve to work together to improve the lives of all of Pennsylvania's children by fighting against the funding cuts, bad policy decisions, and other challenges that continue to threaten our children's futures. Imagine if we work together for meaningful programs, smart policies, safe schools, and solutions that work. Just imagine.
Together, as Partners for Public Education, we can follow the essential steps for success to make a difference for our children. We can do it, if we work together, sincerely, consistently, and tirelessly. This is about our children and their futures. Let's resolve to make a difference in 2013.
Take the Pledge: Make Advocating for Schools A New Year's Resolution
When you make your New Year's resolutions, will you commit to advocating for public schools?
Take the pledge today to speak up for public schools and students in 2013.