Friday’s tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary have stirred strong emotions in us here at the GGSC, just as they have in you: horror and grief for the victims, compassion for their families, fear and anxiety for the safety of our own families.

Although our expertise is not in counseling, many of our colleagues have produced excellent resources for parents and educators struggling to talk with children, and preserve their own mental health, in the wake of the tragedy. Here is a guide to some of these resources, including those from our friends at Educators for Social Responsibility, which are especially helpful for teachers.

  • The National Education Association has put together this comprehensive School Crisis Guide that provides guidelines for preparing for and responding to crises. It offers detailed tips to help school staff take care of their own psychological health as they also care for the mental well-being of their students.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) can help shed light on how children make sense of traumatic events, and how to respond to their questions and fears. Its valuable tips for “Talking to Children about the Shooting” include items such as “Start the conversation,” ask what your child already knows, “Gently correct inaccurate information,” and “Limit media exposure.”
  • The NCTSN also has a Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators that explains how school administrators, teachers, and other staff can work with traumatized children in the school system.
  • The Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine offers many resources for dealing with traumatic events in schools, including resources for parents and caregivers.
  • Educators for Social Responsibility has created an excellent guide, “Talking with Children about War and Violence in the World,” that addresses 32 questions about how to broach the subject with students and respond to their concerns.
  • The National Association for School Psychologists has this handout to help children cope with tragedy, including tips for parents, teachers, and schools.
  • The American Psychological Association provides tips to help children “manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting”.
  • In his career as a child educator, Fred “Mister” Rogers consistently devoted special attention to helping cope with scary and even traumatic events. His company has compiled some of his most enduring tips and insights, including this quote that resonates deeply with us here at the GGSC:
    When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.
    © Jani Bryson
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