Tools for caring adults with school children

Ben Barton
Caledonia Superintendent

As you are aware, there was a shooting at a school in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.  Because the incident happened in an elementary school, this may be of very great concern to all students and their families.

We wanted you to know what we have done in this school district to address safety in our schools and crisis response plans. But first we have some suggestions for you as you help your children and youth cope during this stressful time.

Adult’s role:  Try to be calm, reassuring and focused for the children. Parents and guardians need to get the support they need from other adults so they are able to effectively guide the children. Talk about family and community values, communication and treating each other in a caring way.

Talk and listen: Find out what the children’s fears and concerns are and address them as directly and calmly as possible. Reassure them that you, extended family members and other adults are here to help and protect. Give children time to talk, follow their lead – when they are ready to return to their regular routine, let them. If they have further concerns, they will probably come back to talk. Let them know they can talk at any time.

Create a safe home environment: Turn off the TV. Constant images, strong emotions and reports of the shooting are not helpful at this time. If you need to watch the news, do so after the children have gone to bed. If teenage children want to watch the news, make sure that you are with them to help process the information and images.

Keep to bedtime routine: A good antidote to stress is sleep. Children need reassurance at bedtime.  Read to them, keep family faith traditions and allow nightlights and hall lights to stay on.  Some children may want extra assurance. Lying down with children, especially young ones, or sitting in a youth’s room until they fall asleep may be helpful.

Use your resources: Community resources are available to you and your families to help you talk to children include counselors, members of the faith community, public health and sexual assault and domestic abuse programs.

Start the discussion: Here are some remarks that might help you start a discussion with your children about today’s events. Use whatever is comfortable for you.

“What has happened is horrifying, and our hearts and brains are having a hard time taking it all in. What we know at this point is: (give facts, as you know them.)”

“When scary things happen, it is important to take a big breath or whatever it is you do to help calm down. Pay attention to the facts. Be careful not to spread rumors.”

Be careful to avoid dramatizing the drama – try to calm yourself and others instead of fanning the excitement.

“It is still important for you and me to be able to express our feelings and share our thoughts and concerns. Do you want to talk about what has happened?  We can talk whenever you want.”

Possible discussion questions:

What have you heard about the shootings?

How are you feeling about what happened?

Is anyone you know worried about this happening at your school? How can we help that person?

How did what you heard or saw affect you?

Who are your friends, supporters and resources for help?

How can you be a friend or peacemaker to other students and adults in this family, neighborhood or school?

We have or will be taking the following steps as a school district to plan for crisis:

Counselors and social workers will be sending information out to staff on information and strategies to address student concerns related to school violence.

Counselors and social workers are available to work with students and staff.

Adopted a new school district policy as it relates to crisis plans. This policy is located on our district website.

Consulted with law enforcement regarding our crisis response procedures.

Created procedures and protocols in the event of crisis in our schools.

Created a crisis team made up of school and community officials.

Look at our buildings infrastructure and recommend changes to make our schools safer.

We are concerned about the safety of all of the children in our community. We must be careful as we talk to our children that the violent acts do not carry over to the way we treat each other. Adults must role model tolerance and care for all children. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us.


Ben Barton is the Caledonia Superintendent of Schools.