School News – April
Also, many of you may be aware of the horrible tragedy that occurred at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. There was a mass school stabbing yesterday morning involving a 16-year-old student. This is a devastating, heartbreaking occurence for all parents, family members, students, the Murrysville community and for everyone in education.
We want you to know that our district practices lockdown drills and each school conducts regular, monthly emergency drills in the event of a real occurence. We have have strict procedures to keep kids safe in our schools and we are committed to taking all necessary measures in doing so. We work directly with the Granite Falls (Snohomish County) Police and Fire Department as part of our continuing effort to keep your children safe.
Below is some advice for parents, which may also be useful as our community endures the grief over the victims of the Oso mudslide…
Children can have intense, sometimes conflicting, feelings about these very public tragedies. You can help your children simply by talking and listening to them. We don’t always know how a student will be affected in a crisis situation, but you know your child better than anyone.
Almost nothing is harder than talking to a child about death. Helping a child cope with loss and grief is one of the hardest things any adult will ever do. Even before you fully understand your own feelings, you may need to help a child face a complicated range of emotions — fear, sadness, anger, confusion and guilt. Here are some ways to ease the pain for both of you, as well as help with your communication:
- Be a good listener and talk about the tragedy in an age-appropriate manner. Children younger than seven years old may be too young to understand what has happened. Older children may just need to know that they are safe. Teenagers may want a conversation that is detailed and may want to discuss how events such as this could be prevented. Support and reassurance for children of all ages is very comforting.
- Use simple words. The younger your child is, the simpler your explanation should be. Too many details can distract him from the fact that a death has occurred. You can always provide more information if your child seems confused by what he has heard.
- Be direct. Using words like died or death in a gentle but accurate way helps a child begin to understand what has happened. You might say, “You know that Grandma has been sick for a very long time from cancer. She wasn’t sick the way you were when you had the chicken pox last year — it was very different. We all hoped she would get better. But she didn’t, and now she has died from the cancer.”
- Listen carefully. After giving your child the facts, let him respond. You may want to remain silent for a few minutes while he thinks about what you have said. He may need more time than usual to respond to your words. Ask your child if he has questions. Most important, let your child know he can talk to you at any time.
- Talk about your own feelings. Let yourself cry and admit that you feel sad. This gives your child permission to express his own feelings. You may be able to encourage him to open up by saying things like, “I’m very sad because Uncle Joe died, and I loved him a lot. Now I won’t see him any more.”
- Show your love. Remember that the news may make your child very afraid of losing you. Reassure him that you are there for him. Give him a hug. Hold his hand. Stroke his hair.
- Offer reassurance. Remind your child that most people who are hurt or sick get better and live until they are very old. Help your child remember one or two good things about the person who died. You might say, “I know you’re going to miss Mr. Jones a lot because he was a wonderful teacher and made you laugh a lot.” This tells him that it’s OK to feel different emotions, both happy and sad, when he thinks about the person who has died.
- Be patient. Children — even teenagers — may ask the same questions over and over.
You may also want to consider how much media coverage you want your children to see, especially young children, because the visual images can be upsetting. A resource from the National Association of School Psychologists has additional tips for parents on how to talk to children about violence that you may find helpful.
If you feel that a student is visibly upset and would like time to get their thoughts and emotions out, we trust that you will send these students to the career center in the counseling office where they will have time to share and grieve in that safe, supportive environment.
Our hearts and prayers go out to those of the Murrysville Community and all the families affected. Thank you for all your efforts.