I live in South Brunswick and I have never been to Newtown, CT. I think I recall driving through Newtown once on my way to some farther destination.
Yesterday, my daughter’s bus, which is always consistent within a minute or two, was late dropping her off, most likely because of the heightened security at her school following the Newtown, CT tragedy. By the time she arrived—10 minutes after the usual time—I was a smack dab in the middle of a mild panic attack. Why? Because the tragic event in Newton was our tragedy, as well.
It was everyone’s tragedy. Those were our kids, our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, our clommunity.
And, we all cried and continue to cry.
Today, as the next round of wakes and the funerals of James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos take place, the Newtown community returns to school. While trying to cope themselves, teachers and school personnel around the country (and around the world) must try to help their students to make sense of this horrible tragedy.
I applaud this very difficult step of returning to school…an attempt to return to a normal routine. Many students spend as much time with their teachers and school friends as they do with their parents. And, how the school handles the distress can impact how students deal with their current and future grieving process.
Students of diverse ages and ethnicities, with varied understandings of death may deal with tragedy and death in different ways. Emotional detachment, regressive behaviors, acting out, and asking a lot of questions (sometimes the same questions—over and over) are some of the different ways that students may express their grief or try to make sense of what has happened.
The Association for School Psychologists offers the following tips for teachers, parents, and other caregivers to support children who have experienced tragedy and loss:
- Give students the opportunity –in fact encourage them – to ask questions and discuss the situation.
- Be a good listener.
- Allow adequate time for each student to express their feelings using an outlet that works for that child (drawing, writing, talking, etc.).
- Trust them with the truth. Don’t lie in order to shelter them. Lying will only hinder the development of coping strategies for future tragedies or losses.
- Encourage students who are worried about a friend to talk to a caring adult.
- Support their need to help, which may help them deal with their own fears and concerns (i.e., making cards, drawing, videos, etc.)
And, remember. We are a larger community. No one parent, teacher or school needs to tackle this alone. Additional resources to support caregivers and children through tragedy and grief are available at the National Association of School Psychologist’s website— www.nasponline.org
Originally posted on Verizon Foundation's Thinkfinity Community site: http://www.thinkfinity.org/community/hub/blog/2012/12/18/recovering-from-tragedy