Coping with CT Shootings: Experts Say Routine is Powerful Medicine
AURORA, Colo. - It's an all-too-familiar situation for Colorado parents, helping children cope after a school shooting.
Children may be fearful about heading back to school today after last week's shootings in Connecticut, and Colorado parents may face difficult decisions.
Laura Mutrie with the Parent Child Resource Center says there is great strength in routine, and unless they are sick, she urges getting the kids back to the classroom.
"You want to reassure them that their school is safe and that everybody is working to make schools even safer right now. You want to tell yourself that 'I'm going to be calm and reassuring' and that 'My child feels that from me.'"
The Newtown school shooting hits close to home for many Coloradans. Twelve people were killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting earlier this year, and 13 died in the 1999 Columbine school massacre. Governor John Hickenlooper said this weekend that talking with the Aurora victims' families was "unspeakably hard" because he was trying to help them understand something beyond their imagination.
Connecticut Health Foundation's Patricia Baker says the conversation is hard too for families not connected to the Connecticut events.
"We are all stressing out to figure out how to do this, how do I talk to my child about this? How do we process this as a family? I would urge any parent to seek that counsel out."
Baker says we can all create the space for people to talk, cry and share safely. Children may have nightmares and act younger than their age; that's normal in the first few days after a traumatic event. If those symptoms persist after a few weeks, or appear much later, they need expert attention.
"Your child may seem perfectly fine, and three to six months later he just is not the child you knew, or acting in ways that just are not in sync with how you recognize your child. That's the time to seek counsel."
Baker says it's important that school staffs have the resources they need to work with parents to help grieving children and also to identify other pupils who may have serious mental-health issues, so they can intervene before such children reach a critical stage.