Tools

Counselor Offers Advice to Parents Helping Kids Cope with Tragedy

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn.- Many across the Nation are having trouble comprehending what happened in Newtown, Connecticut leaving adults and children with important questions that are tough to answer. Crisis counselors said parents must be careful when explaining the trauma to their children.

Parents and teachers said they are afraid students will fear a place many once believed was safe after the deadly elementary school shooting killed 20 children and 6 adults, Friday..

"What about these poor children how do they ever go back into a school how do they ever trust a teacher or anybody else again," said Teacher Melanie Hatley.

Counselors said children can sense our emotions around them. Parents said the tragedy has touched hearts of all ages. Parent Brittany Peach talks about her conversation with her 5 year old son.

"He just kept asking me if it was his school that it happened at," said Peach. "He just kept asking me why somebody would do that and I said I don't know. "

Jackson Madison County School Crisis Counselor Will Beyer said parents should have open discussions to relieve their child's fears and insure their safety.

"They can think prospectively into the future and begin to think what if this happens at our school and what would I do," said Beyer. "It's alright for our children to see us cry it's okay."

Parents said having those conversations can be emotional. Experts said parents should work through their own emotions first before answering a child's questions. Beyer said it's okay to leave some questions unanswered.

"It's okay to say I don't know because the truth is we don't know why events like this happen here so I don't think its something we could or try to explain why," said Beyer.

Counselors also said parents should pay close attention to their child's reaction. If there are nightmares, changes in appetite or fears of going to school, contact your school's guidance counselor.

Beyer said parents should try to shield their younger children below age 5. Keep their routine the same and try not to flood the environment with negative feelings and focus on the good stories of the heroes who came to action during the tragic event rather than telling negative stories about the gunman.

Area school counselors said they are preparing to take both student and parent questions.