Kevin Ellers, M.A.
As your children get ready to go back to school after Christmas break, Kevin Ellers shares tips for helping them continue to process the Newtown shooting and re-build a sense of safety.
While the media has focused on the families of those who have had loved ones die in Newtown, Connecticut, parents across America are struggling to help their own families cope with this event. As children prepare to go back to school, they may encounter anxiety and struggle with the images and stories they’ve seen on TV.
Remembering that children have an egocentric view of the world is important. Kids can vicariously experience emotional trauma, although they did not directly witness the scene or know any of the victims. The ripple effect of a traumatic event like this can be far-reaching, but may not be recognized by parents.
Violent or intensely disturbing images and experiences may disrupt a child’s sense of security and safety. Consequently, the child may experience a feeling of loss, resulting in fear, grief, feeling alone, anger, and/or loss of control. Talking to children about death must match their developmental level. Parents should be sensitive to kids’ capacity to understand the situation.
It is also critical to understand that children closely monitor adults’ reactions as they process a traumatic event, and for primary grade children, these reactions can play a very significant role in shaping their perceptions of the event.
Practical Ways Parents Can Help
Adapted from content in the Grief Following Trauma curriculum (Ellers, 2006).
Kevin Ellers, M.A. is the Territorial Disaster Services Coordinator for The Salvation Army in the U.S.A. Central Territory. He is also president of the Institute for Compassionate Care which is dedicated to education, training and direct care. He is an associate chaplain with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, serves as faculty for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, adjunct professor at Olivet Nazarene University, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors Crisis Response Training Team. He has extensive training and experience in the fields of crisis response, grief, trauma, disaster management, chaplaincy, pastoral ministries, marriage and family therapy, and social services. As an author and speaker he teaches broadly in these related topics.