The following is a letter from Superintendent Timothy Ritter.
Dear TVUSD Parents and Guardians:
We are all saddened by the horrific events that took place in Connecticut this morning. It is understandable that if children become aware of the news, they may become frightened and worry about their own safety. We will continue to do all we can to maintain safe schools for all children in our community, but at a time like this many of you may want to reassure your child. We know it is not easy talking to children about tragic events.
We offer the following suggestions to help you assist your children in coping with any potential trauma resulting from the events of this tragedy:
• Reassure children that they are safe. Explain to them that there are good, competent people in charge who are working to keep us all safe.
• Limit exposure to the media. Avoid “staying glued” to the television. Instead, watch for a brief time and then talk about what you are seeing.
• Point out good deeds that have come out of this tragedy. Focus on stories of heroism and generosity to help children fortify their belief in humanity.
• Explain that feeling upset is normal. Communicate to your children that being sad or crying about these events is OK.
• Talk about the tragedy with children old enough to understand recent events. Tell your children the truth, but make sure that your explanations are age-appropriate. Younger children will need brief information (only if they are aware of the tragedy and are asking questions) combined with reassurances of safety and love. Older children will be able to ask more involved questions and may need more detailed reassurances about why they are safe. Give children the answers to their questions and try to avoid speculation. Be a good listener and ask your children why they are asking the questions they are asking, to get to the root of their anxiety.
• Try to keep your routine. This fosters feelings of safety and stability.
• Encourage young children to express their feelings through art. This may help them express thoughts they are unable to articulate.
• Stay calm. Children take cues from your behavior. It is ok to show that you are upset, but avoid expressing strong feelings of anger, fear, or hopelessness.
• Try to spend more time with your children. Tell them that you love them and engage them with quiet, calming activities.
• You will need to take care of your own needs in order to stay calm and strong for your children. Seek out community resources to find the support you need.
• Don’t punish children for reverting to behaviors from an earlier age, e.g., bed-wetting. Instead, encourage them to verbalize the feelings behind their actions. These behaviors will subside over time.
• Familiarize yourself with signs of trauma and monitor your child’s behavior in the upcoming weeks.
• Stay in touch with teachers and caregivers to ask about your child’s behavior.
This list is meant only as suggestions should you feel the need to discuss today’s tragic events with your child. These tips have been compiled using information from the Web sites of the following organizations:
- The American Counseling Association
- The National Association of School Psychologists
- The Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA)
More age-specific strategies for talking with your children can be found at: www.nasponline.org/resources/handouts/talkingviolence.pdf
Our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy.
Temecula Valley Unified School District