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How to Talk to Children About Tragedies Like the CT School Shooting

Radnor School District's superintendent says the district will continue to practice strict security protocols.

The Radnor Township School District will continue "to practice strict security protocols in all buildings and schools, including the use of the Raptor background check system, staff identification, and restricting public access to our school buildings during the school day," Superintendent Linda Grobman said in a statement on Friday.

Counselors are available in all of the schools for students and parents in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

"Students and staff will continue to practice emergency drills throughout the year. Safety in all buildings and schools will continue to be coordinated with the Radnor Township Police Department," Grobman writes.

"As an educator and parent, an event like this shakes me to the core, and I know it affects our entire RTSD family. The district will work diligently to help everyone in our community cope with this tragedy."

The following are suggestions from the National Mental Health Association for how to talk to children about such an event. What did you say to your children? How are they responding to this tragedy? Tell us by commenting below.

Validate the child’s feelings.

Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is why these incidents attract so much media attention. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown that schools are more secure now than ever before.

Empower children to take action regarding school safety.

Encourage them to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.

Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.

Create safety plans with your child.

Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of crisis during the school day. Remind your child that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.

Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school.

Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline.

Seek help when necessary.

If you are worried about a child’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at school or at your community mental health center.

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