Since the senseless tragedy last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, parents around the world have been left feeling fearful and powerless in terms of how to shelter their children from its aftermath.  To help empower these parents, numerous publications, newsletters and blogs have circulated offering advice to help parents guide their children safely through the media hailstorm.  I wanted to share this particular letter, written by Carolyne Cybulski, principal of e.p.i.c. school.

Carolyne’s message really resonates with me both as a father and a pediatrician. I would like to spread as widely as possibly this empathic, constructive, respectful and child-honouring approach to supporting parents and children through this very difficult time:

Dear School Families,

We have all been greatly saddened by the events in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts go out to the families and our sadness is expanded by having yet again, to write an email to you about how to talk with children about such awful events.

Our students are young and it is our hope that they have been protected against the news of these terrible events, however, we realize that some of our students have older siblings and as a result may have some knowledge about the shootings. Below you will find some suggestions to help guide you if you feel the need to talk with your child.

1. Young children have little understanding of geography. If they have heard about the tragedy in Connecticut they may not understand that it is NOT in their neighbourhood. Let them know they are safe. Let them know It is all of our jobs to help to keep them safe.

2. Children 3 to 6 years have wonderful ‘magical thinking’ and have a different perception about death. They can believe it is reversible, and have difficulty verbalizing what they are feeling. We need to make our children feel secure, providing routine, a sense of calm and reinforce a sense of normalcy.

3. In school, if children mention the events, our plan is to acknowledge their comments and respond, in a very matter of fact way (the purpose is to allow our children to feel confident and secure at school) – “yes, sometimes terrible things happen but we are so lucky to be here where we are safe and can have fun with our friends’.

Below are some links that might help you if you or your child feels the need to discuss the terrible events.

Links to Alyson Schafer

How Not to Talk With Children About the Sandy Hook Shooting

I will be greeting at the door tomorrow. Please let me know if your child is aware of the events in Newtown and if you have any concerns. And please, hug your children close today,