NEWTOWN – In the wake of the horrific tragedy that occurred on May 24 at an elementary school in Texas, Council Rock School District provides counseling services to its students and teachers.
Additionally, it is partnering with local authorities to increase its presence in area schools.
“This is a horrific event, which may cause many emotions, including fear, anxiety and anger,” Acting Superintendent Dr. Susan Elliott said in district-wide communications. “The safety and well-being of students and staff remains our top priority.
“Our school counselors will be available to meet with students and staff who may need to speak with someone while addressing this tragic situation,” Elliott continued.
Elliott also provided the following advice and advances from the National Association of School Psychologists when talking with students about violence.
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Educators
High-profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved ones are in danger. They will look to adults for information and instructions on how to act. Parents and school staff can help children feel safe by creating a sense of normalcy and security and talking to them about their concerns.
1. Reassure children that they are safe. He emphasized that the schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are fine when a tragedy occurs. Let the children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and help them express those feelings appropriately.
2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. be patient; Children and young adults do not always talk about their feelings easily. Pay attention to clues that he might want to talk, such as hovering around you while you do the dishes or work in the yard. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them recognize and express their feelings.
3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
• Early elementary school children need brief and simple information that must be balanced with reassurances that their school and home are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety such as reminding children of closed exterior doors, child monitoring efforts in the playground, and emergency drills that are practiced during the school day.
• Children of upper elementary school and early middle school will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they are really safe and what is being done in their school. They may need help separating fact from fiction. Discuss the efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
• Middle and high school students will have strong and diverse opinions about the causes of violence in schools and the community. They will exchange concrete suggestions on how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in the community. Emphasize the role students play in keeping schools safe by following school safety guidelines (eg, not providing access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to school safety by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns of school principals, and obtaining support for emotional needs.
4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community they are going to if they feel threatened or threatened.
5. Monitor the emotional state of children. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also 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 severe reactions. Children who have had a traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or have special needs may be at greater risk of severe reactions than others. Seek help from a mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
6. Limit TV viewing of these events. Watch less TV and be aware if the TV is on in public places. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, especially in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations they have with each other in front of children, even teens, and to limit their exposure to retaliatory, hateful, and angry comments that may be misunderstood.
7. Keep a regular routine. Sticking to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Make sure children get enough sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their homework and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
Suggested points to emphasize when talking to children
• Schools are safe places. School staff works with parents and public safety providers (local police, fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
• The school building is safe because… (indicate specific school procedures).
• We all play a role in school safety. Be alert and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, stressed, or afraid.
• There is a difference between reporting or gossip or gossip. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
• While there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the potential for it to affect you (our school community).
• It is hard for everyone to understand senseless violence. Doing things you enjoy, sticking to your regular routine, and being with friends and family helps make us feel better and prevents us from worrying about the event.
• Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffer from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, religious leaders) work hard to help these people and prevent them from harming others. It’s important for all of us to know how to get help if we’re feeling really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
• Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Having access to guns is a major risk factor for fatal violence.
• Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer are experiencing anger, depression, or other feelings they cannot control.
NASP contains additional information for parents and educators about school safety, violence prevention, children’s reactions to trauma, and crisis response at www.nasponline.org.