With non-stop cable news highlighting every detail of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut – while simultaneously reviewing every school shooting in recent memory – parents across the nation are struggling with how to discuss the random act of violence with their own school-aged children.
“There isn’t any response that works anymore. ‘That doesn’t happen here’ is long gone,” said Dmitra Smith, the mother of a 12-year-old son. “Of course I told him that it wasn’t going to happen at his school. But the long answer is that I don’t really know that to be true.”
Other Valley parents, particularly those with younger children, choose to keep their minds clear from thoughts of killing sprees. “Children have such a small window of time in their lives to be children and not deal with ugly. I want my children to get every second of this time and not be cheated out of any of it. I don’t think they need to know what happened in Connecticut. I choose for my children to not know,” said Celeste Winders, whose four children range in age from 4 to 18, including a daughter who attends boarding school in Connecticut.
In a letter from Superintendant Louann Carlomagno, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District recommends that parents looking for guidance read the article “Talking to children about violence” from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which can be found at nasponline.org. It suggests parents begin by reminding their child that they are safe, both at home and at school. NASP also recommends parents limit exposure to news briefs, but says parents should make themselves available if a child has questions or concerns. It also reiterated the important role students can play in safety, by reporting things that make them feel uncomfortable to school officials.
Many parents are also taking the opportunity to discuss social issues, such as mental health and gun control with their children. In his blog, at law-kelly.com, Sonoma attorney John Kelly wrote of telling his 4-year-old about mental illness.