In an unimaginable tragedy, 27 lives were taken on the morning of Dec. 14 in , including the lives of 20 children.
That evening, and in the days that followed the Dec. 14 massacre, we heard from a tearful President Barack Obama and solemn law enforcement officials, and were moved by the various television tributes, like Saturday Night Live's "Silent Night" cold open.
Here in Bedford, the response came quickly, as Superintendent Jon Sills sent a statement out to Bedford families with suggestions about how to approach talking to children of all ages about the tragedy.
Also included in the statement was information about the plan to have parents involved with the Bedford Elementary Schools Together at the front door of Davis Elementary School and Lane Elementary School for this week.
Read the full statement from the Superintendent below:
Dear Families and Staff,
I've included some thoughts from a child psychologist about how to
approach difficult conversations like those precipitated by yesterday's
events. It is followed by a video that you may find helpful.
As we review door security this week, we will be guided by the need to
ensure our children's safety and while recognizing the limits of any
measures that we might put in place. Tragically, the principal at Sandy
Hook had recently instituted a locked front door protocol, and it did not
suffice to prevent the intruder from entering the school.
In the meantime, I have asked the BEST parents to organize volunteers to
create a people-friendly presence inside the front doors at Davis and Lane
this week. The response has been tremendous, and we will have a parent
sitting by the front door in two hour shifts for the entire week, enabling
us to keep the front doors locked as families, children and staff deal
with the emotional vulnerability that the Connecticut events have caused.
At JGMS and the high school, our SRO's will maintain a visible presence as
Talking with Our Children:
Keep it simple. Even if you think young children are blissfully unaware
the news, if the tragedy is local or being discussed among parents,
chances are they'll know that something's going on. Dr. Schonfeld suggests
talking to your young children in simple and concrete terms. You can say,
"there was a man who brought a gun to a school and hurt some people
badly." Be honest and direct, but skip the details, which can be
Reassure, but don't lie. It's common for a preschooler to express very
direct fears like, "I'm worried someone will come shoot us." If they do,
Dr. Schonfeld says parents should reassure their kids without making any
false promises or dismissing their concerns. "Tell them it's very unlikely
something like that will occur."
Limit media exposure. You don't need to hide the newspaper during a
tragedy, but you shouldn't have the news running 24/7, either. Dr.
Schonfeld says studies have shown that repeated exposure to graphic
details may make it harder for a child to cope with a tragedy. Try to
watch the news when young kids are not in the room, and if they do hear a
scary-sounding news snippet, address it simply and let them know you are
doing everything you can to keep them safe.
Talk about what real guns can do. Whether they're playing with toy guns or
simply making their fingers into the shape of a gun, preschoolers are
typically aware of guns and need to understand the difference between a
toy and a real weapon, says Hayley Sherwood, a psychologist who works with
kids who are victims of trauma. "I would say, 'it's okay to play pretend
guns, but real guns can hurt people and very scary things can happen with
Be honest, but not explicit. Like preschoolers, the best approach for
school-age kids is a direct and honest one. Sherwood suggests starting the
conversation by asking what, if anything, they've heard about the shooting
in school from their classmates or teacher. Correct any misinformation and
answer questions honestly, with simple answers that don't delve into
explicit, potentially traumatizing details.
Find out their fears. If you're going to try and comfort kids, you have to
find out what's worrying them, says Dr. Schonfeld. "The fears children
have might be different than adults and might be distorted and
incomplete," he says. Speak in a calm, empathetic tone and make sure any
conversation you have includes lots of opportunities for your kids to ask
questions and share their concerns.
Share your feelings, too. It can be tempting to look like the stoic parent
who has everything under control, but sharing some of your worries and
fears -- without losing it completely -- is actually beneficial for kids.
"It's not useful to see parents overwhelmed, but we can't ask our kids to
share without sharing some ourselves," says Dr. Schonfeld.
Talk about safety measures in place. Let kids know that the adults in
their lives are doing everything they can to assure they will stay safe.
Talk about what you do to keep your home safe, such as locking doors or
not opening the door for strangers. Don't falsely promise that these
measures will definitely protect you and your children, but reassure your
kids that the chances something bad will happen are very slim.
Be as direct and honest. Sherwood says parents should let their kids know,
"I know you know what happened. If you want to talk about it I'm here." If
they ask a question such as, "why would somebody do this?" be honest that
people sometimes have lots of anger and bad feelings that make them want
to hurt and kill other people.
Think about social media exposure. Social media tools like Facebook and
Twitter can make your kids feel like they're very much a part of a tragedy
such as the Newtown, CT school shooting, says Dr. Schonfeld. While it's
not realistic to ask your kids to stay off their smartphones or avoid
their Twitter feeds completely, you should advise them to think carefully
about their social media exposure and how much time they're spending
reading, following and responding to what's on these outlets. And if
they're upset by the constant stream of information, reassure them that
you're available to talk -- and make sure they know it's okay to stop
paying attention to the story and do something else.
Reassure them that feeling different or angry is okay. Reassure your kids
that an individual who committed such a crime has other serious problems
and take the opportunity to talk about other troubling feelings your
children might have.
Approach it from the third person. Teenagers are not exactly known for
their willingness to communicate with their parents, but Schonfeld says
you can sometimes back into a conversation by saying something like this
at the dinnertable: "So I heard about this on the news. What were your
friends saying about this?" Never force your kids to talk, but let them
know you are there if they are ever ready to discuss it.
Don't feel obligated to give a reason for what happened. "Resist the
temptation to come up with simple answers to complex situations," says Dr.
Schonfeld. Although parents often want to provide a reason for why someone
committed such a crime, the reality is we just don’t quite know. And
Click here to see an excellent video on the subject of talking to children about tragic events like this.