Missoula County Public Schools Offer Tips to Support Children in Wake of Tragedy
At about the time of writing this article, many parents around Missoula are picking their children up from area schools, giving them a big hug, and heading home to assess the situations that unfolded today in Connecticut. While it may feel as if Missoula is a world away from the horrifying events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary, it's inevitable that children all over the valley will have many questions.
A letter has just been sent out to parents of students attending schools in Missoula County offering advice and support following today's Connecticut shooting. From the desk of Alex P. Apostle, the superintendent of MCPS offers some important reminders and remedies that can be applied in the wake of today's events.
Dear MCPS Parents:
As you are probably aware, there was a major school shooting in Connecticut this morning at an elementary school. The students and families impacted by this tragic event are in our thoughts today.
In an effort to help students and families deal with this tragedy, we have outlined the following guidelines for parents and guardians to support their children in regaining a sense of safety in our world.
- Routine is important for students. A sense of security arises when the student understands what will happen next.
- Turn off the TV. Children can sometimes be oversaturated with information the media portrays. Talk to your child about the events and spend time with him or her reading, playing games, or drawing (Lovre, C., 2006). If your child is watching TV, please watch with him or her so you can discuss the media information surrounding the event. (National Center for Children Exposed to Violence at the Yale Child Study Center, 2006).
- Listen to your child. Your ability to listen to concerns, worries, and questions is the best way a child can learn how to cope with his or her feelings and to help the child feel safe. (National Center for Children Exposed to Violence at the Yale Child Study Center, 2006). Creating an environment in which your child can ask questions helps alleviate fears; this includes sending a message that you are available to talk anytime.
- Recognize and consider your own feelings about the event. If you are unable to talk to your child because of your own fears, please talk to family, a trusted friend, a school counselor, or a mental health professional (National Center for Children Exposed to Violence at the Yale Child Study Center, 2006).
- Please contact your child’s teacher and/or school counselor next week if you feel your child would benefit from more support. One example to look for is disruptions in sleeping or eating patterns.
Lovre, C. (2006). Guidelines for Helping Children in the Aftermath of the Shooting in the Amish School. Crisis Management Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cmionline.com/get-started/parents/
National Center for Children Exposed to Violence at the Yale Child Study Center. (2006). Parents’ Guide for Helping Children in the Wake of Disaster. Retrieved from http://www.nccev.org/resources/publications.html
In addition, we received multiple inquiries from parents and local media today as news of this school shooting spread across the nation. Please be assured that we have emergency plans, procedures and drills at all schools, and at the District level as well. We work continuously to provide the safest environment possible for students and employees. If you have questions about our emergency response plans, please feel free to contact me at any time.
We will be learning more about this tragedy over the weekend. Again, please visit with your child’s teacher or principal on Monday if you have questions or concerns.
Alex P. Apostle
Superintendent, Missoula County Public Schools
Over to you: Do you think your school system is ready for a situation like this? Do school lockdowns make sense? What are you going to tell your kids tonight? How do you handle this news with your kids?