While the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary is far away in Connecticut, the fear of danger is never far away. Helping young students and children come to terms with the aftermath of a mass shooting can be difficult.
“The most important thing would be to let the child talk and not lead them or tell them how to feel,” Joe Dickhaus, a mental health professional living in Winchester, said. “Let them process what they need to process.”
Dickhaus also said children will process the tragedy through their own point of views and not the same way as an adult might.
Making sure the child understands whatever feelings they might have are natural is important as well.
“You don’t want to tell them how to feel,” he said. “Any time after a trauma or tragic event, you can feel any range of feelings from anger to sadness to even guilt. You want to tell them that how they feel is OK, and you want to encourage them to express that emotion in appropriate ways.”
Parents will also want to make their children feel safe. That can be hard when the child heads off to school Monday morning. That’s a concern Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Elaine Farris shares.
“It’s a very emotional time for me as a superintendent,” Farris said. “Anytime a school is invaded you have concerns about the safety of your own students. What else do we need to keep our students safe?”
Farris said she plans to meet with Paul Christy, Clark County Public Schools administrative director, about what other safety measures can be taken to help secure local schools. Farris also said they will likely send security updates to the district’s principals.
“We’ll alert them to go back over their safety plans and make sure the students and teachers know what to do in a situation like that,” she said. “We’ll have some conversations with our principals and send letters out to our parents about our safety measures.”
Farris also said she will speak to principals Monday about offering mental health counseling to students should it be necessary.
But her biggest concern is the continued safety of the county’s schools.
“I want to make sure our parents understand our schools are very safe, and we will be reviewing our safety measures on Monday,” she said. “If we need to make any changes, we will.”