Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Silence" + Resources in Tragedy

Silence + Resources

Today in honor of all those who have been touched, moved and affected by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary we are changing our typical format of cheerful and insightful articles. Our regular 16th-of-the-month contributor, Miss Carole, will move her post from today to a few days later.  (Return on the 21st for her upbeat cheer on a musical note.) 

In addition to this time of 'silence' on our regular programming, several of our regular contributors have sent their thoughts + links to supportive articles for parents and educators in the face of abject tragedy -- in an effort to support the children in your lives. We felt it would be helpful to offer that information here today. 

Our Deborah McNelis was asked to contribute her insight to her local TV station's coverage. Here is a summary of her thoughts shared via Facebook communication. 

To remember it is really hard for us as adults to comprehend this and to deal with the emotions that it evokes...
so, it is critical that parents realize that children have brains that are not yet mature.
The immature brain needs caring adults to help deal with big emotions that they are not able to fully control.
It is also important to remember that it is likely that a child will not perceive the incident in the same way that an adult would.

This is an abstract situation that may be imagined differently than you may realize. So, ideally a parent needs to first ensure they find a time and situation that is free of interruptions to give the child full attention. It may be best to talk with each child separately also. Then let the child talk and express their thoughts, perceptions and feelings openly. This way a parent can best determine in what way the child is thinking about the situation.
Depending on the child's age, it may not be easy for them to find the specific language to express their emotions. But, supportive listening and reassurance is what the child needs most.

Also, the brain is always focused on wanting to feel safe. So, it is helpful for parents to realize that fears a child might have are very natural. Not denying these feelings, while trying to find a way to reassure a child is important.

Balance is always the key to parenting. Addressing the child's feelings while ensuring you are not creating more fears for the child is critical. Just reaffirming what they are feeling is valuable. For example: If a child says: "It makes me scared." .... responding to show understanding helps a child greatly. A parent could simply say, "I understand, it makes you feels scared to hear this."
Usually, a child will then go into further explanation of their fears when feeling listened to and comforted in this way.

Some children (and sometimes in particular boys) may not want to talk about it right away... they may need a physical outlet for their feelings. So providing an opportunity to run, jump, or roughhouse together might be the best way to start.

*Deborah also supplies us this very helpful link to Dr. Dave Walsh, entitled "Helping Kids Cope With Tragedy" as well as the link to "Help Kids Cope with the Tragedy in Connecticut" by Dr. Shirin Sherkat. Deborah asks a series of heart-warming 'what if' questions in her own article today: "My Heart Says What If?" 

Our Bill Corbett was the spear-head behind this gathering of links to support parents and teachers here at our collaborative. Here is the link to his own blog article on the topic.

You see that both Deborah and Bill are in agreement over 'limiting' exposure to media coverage. 

Our own Barbara Gruener, in her role as school guidance counselor, concurs with the limiting media exposure insight and goes on to spell out specific (by age) suggestions at her own blog: 
Corner on Character: "When Tragedy Happens"

**Barbara also supplies us with a worksheet from the American Counseling Association with this direct link: "Disaster and Trauma Responses in Children." 

Our Deb Chitwood has gathered a dozen superlative links in her blog article, "Talking with Children About Tragedy." You'll want to see the resources she's gathered for your support, whatever your role with children.

While gathering all of these various links together I had a fellow blogger offer this link: "There is No Lesson Plan for Tragedy ~~ Teachers You Know What to Do."  It is such a heartfelt and powerful piece of writing from the teacher's perspective. You may appreciate having a tissue nearby.

In our 'conversation' between all of these voices above, Miss Carole included an email she'd received from fellow children's musician, Joanie Calem who lived for years in the Middle-East. Joanie offers this personal insight: 

 I think back to the years that I lived in the Middle East, when buses blew up literally once a week. Our instruction was always to follow the children's lead…..if they brought something up, we would address it, in word or song. If they indicated that they'd had enough of sorrow and wanted to get back to the business of being kids and having fun, we (to the best of our abilities since the adults were all in tremendous pain, understanding the implications of yet another senseless death) lightened the atmosphere and sang and danced fun things. Children so often have coping mechanisms that adults have lost…..

photo of: Light Your Candle Against the Darkness: Response to Tragedy at PreK+K Sharing

Our effort today is also one of hope. Our greatest desire is to instill a sense of hope in those who read here regularly, and those who have 'found' us today. My own blog article yesterday was about incredible + amazing good that can arise from tragedy. My thoughts yesterday are based on observations I made in Littleton, CO (of Columbine infamy) earlier this fall during my school visits there. Know that an amazing organization, "Rachel's Challenge" continues to grow and expand its outreach to students and educators and has literally impacted millions since its inception. I offer this outcome as evidence of hope.

What is our response to tragedy? As educators? As parents? This collection of articles today will offer you insight and support whatever hat(s) you may wear. Our own personal response to tragedy is what will make a difference as we move forward into the future. If you have located or written an insightful article beyond these in our list, we would be most appreciative if you'd leave that link in the comment section below. 

One last thought. A quote by Leonard Bernstein shared by Miss Carole. 

"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

photo of: John F. Kennedy Center Opera + Orchestra with Bernstein Quote

Special thanks to all who were able to contribute to today's collaboration.
 -- Debbie Clement, editor-in-chief


  1. Thanks so much for sharing the Day of Silence and so many helpful resources, Debbie. Our hearts are truly broken, but it's reassuring to know so many people care. I shared this on my Facebook pages and pinned it to my Helping Kids Cope Board at

    1. Your list of insightful links is such a HUGE contribution to the article, Deb. Thanks so much for your research behind-the-scenes. I'm glad we can bring more visibility to your effort here at the collaboration. Thanks for passing this onward.


  2. Let there be light indeed. We must continue to light the darkness, and this post will be a beacon to many. Thank you, Debbie, for always being a light!

    1. Light our candles and shine onward. Barbara your article is such a helpful piece and I hope that those needing your insight are able to locate it. We make such an amazing team. I am so grateful for your continued insight and contribution.


  3. Debbie you have put together something that is beautiful and very valuable! Once again the dedicated hearts and minds of this group of caring and knowledgeable professions is demonstrated. Thank you!

  4. I am so delighted to be a part of this loving and caring group of professionals. May we all continue to extend our reach by encouraging and inspiring caregivers everywhere.


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