Galt Joint Union Elementary School District Superintendent Karen Schauer sent home the following letter to parents about how to talk with their children:
The following are some tips for you as you may have questions regarding how you can best support your children following a tragedy such as the shooting in Connecticut. (Adapted from "A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope," 2002, National Association of School Psychologists)
1. Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them and everything will be OK. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.
2. Make time to talk with your children. Remember that if you do not talk to your children about this incident, someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.
3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.
4. Limit your child's television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time, then turn the set off. Don't re-watch the same events over and over again.
5. Maintain a "normal" routine. To the extent possible, stick to your family's normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don't be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.
6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking your children in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
7. Safeguard your children's physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise and nutrition.
8. Consider praying or thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families. It may be a good time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings. Let them feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.