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Coping with CT Shootings: Experts Say Routine is Powerful Medicine

December 17, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It's an all-too-familiar situation for West Virginia parents - helping children cope after a school shooting. And while kids may want to stay home from school, experts advise most kids should go, because maintaining a routine while they are also getting help is best.

Laura Mutrie with the Parent Child Resource Center says there is great strength in routine, and unless they are sick, she urges getting children back to the classroom.

"You want to reassure them the 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 small-town West Virginians, where the assumption is that children are safe. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered state and U.S. flags lowered until sunset on Tuesday.

Connecticut Health Foundation's Patricia Baker says the conversation is hard too for families not connected to the 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?' and 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 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 those children reach a critical stage.

More resources for parents are at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network,

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV