Helping Our Children Cope With the News from Connecticut 

Kathleen McNamara, Head of School of Tuxedo Park School, sent this message out today in response to the horrific events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut.

As the nation grieves and details come out, we thought that her sober thoughts on how to help children through this difficult and frightening time were especially pertinent.

December 16th, 2012

Planning for Monday�s return to school + new helpful links

As the finality of the hideous events in Newtown, CT continues to sink into our hearts and minds, be assured that at Tuxedo Park School we are doing what we can do to be ready for you and your children to return to school Monday morning. Drawing from the collective experience of the wonderful professionals in our midst, we have been putting more resources together for parents. I just want to bring all of you up to date on what we have been doing here at school:

• Once the enormity of the news broke on Friday afternoon, I cut the internet so that students would not be getting live news feeds between 1pm and dismissal should they happen to be at a device in school that had internet access. This meant children were learning about this tragedy at home over the weekend. I know some parents have been shielding your children from the news entirely, which is easier to do with young children.

• I addressed the second grade parents who were here for the science celebration and gave them the news so they could shield themselves and their children from the radio on the car ride home.

• We reminded everyone of our school policy to be in touch with the Gate when unannounced visitors arrive and that all adults on campus do regularly approach someone we do not recognize and to make sure we ask if we can help them in any way.

• After school, I met with the faculty and staff to discuss the events of the day and asked them to contribute to some resource file building on how to talk to children about this event. The list below is a compilation of everything we currently have available. These resources are for parents and teachers alike.

• I contacted our consulting psychologist, Dr. Neil Garafano, to ask him if he might arrange his hours to be available to us on Monday morning. Please join us for a meeting with him at 8:45 at the school.

• Attached here are 9 links with very useful information to read and use in the meantime.

The National Association of School Psychologists -- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

American Psychological Association - Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting

American Academy of Pediatrics - Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings

The National Association of School Psychologists -- A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

American Academy of Child 

Massachusetts General Hospital for Children - Talking To Children About A Shooting

Child Mind Institute - Caring For Kids After A School Shooting

NYU Child Study Center - Talking with Children About Difficult Subjects: Illness, Death, Violence and Disaster

University of Medicine of New Jersey - Talking Points: Helping Children Following School Violence

As we prepare to reenter school on Monday morning, I need to make sure that each parent of a TPS student has had a conversation with your child about this event. While there will be no large group gathering or assembly, the topic will invariably come up during circle time and at morning meetings for many PS students and for all MS and US students. It is important that no student is surprised by the news at school, away from you, which will surely create an added layer of anxiety. For many children, coming in to the routines of school and the excitement of this week’s performances will be the best antidote for them. A normal, predictable routine is very important.

The TPS Faculty and Staff will meet before school, as we do every Monday morning, and chat with Dr. Garafano.

Once all children are in and ready for classes and the day has begun, Dr. Garafano and I will host an impromptu roundtable for any parents who wish to attend starting at 8:45am Monday morning. We will discuss coping strategies and answer questions, recognizing that there is no place in any handbook or manual about how to process a tragedy of this magnitude. Our goal is to be available and to make sure that, as a community, we have a forum for all of us to be together. For some parents this kind of gathering will be helpful, and for others, it will be too stressful. There is no right way to be, or to act, so do not feel obligated to attend. I just want to be sure we are available to you.

When children feel safe and secure, their minds can be open for learning. As our Emergency Preparedness Team met last Wednesday, we had no idea how incredibly timely our planning processes would be as the week unfolded. Please know that the continued health and safety of our students and of our entire community remains the top priority for all of us here at Tuxedo Park School.

For now, enjoy your Sunday and let us all enter gently into what promises to be a week of beautiful song and pageantry, even as our hearts are heavy with this dreadful news.

As always, let me know if there is anything we can do for you.

Thank You,


Helping Our Children Cope With the News from Connecticut 

December 14th, 2012

An Important Message from the Head of School

The horrific events of today’s shootings at the elementary school in Connecticut (and the coming 24-hour news cycle that will surely surround it) mean that we, as parents and educators, are now required to grapple with how much information to give children, where we can limit their exposure to the news, and how to help them process what they see on television and the internet, and what they hear from each other and see at newsstands near grocery store check-out counters. It is a lot to process for adults, never mind for children. As a nation grieves and reacts, it is my goal to highlight some resources that can help adults process our feelings around these events and to help our children manage theirs. We will try to help them think about and process today’s news in age-appropriate ways. Likewise, when dealing with younger children, you’ll also need to find an approach that works for you and your family.

As parents we will want to recognize that the questions children ask don’t always accurately reflect the answers they are seeking.  “Why did this happen?” often means, “Will this happen to me?” Those two questions deserve different responses, so if the child says the former but means the latter, parents have to be mindful of that and offer only as much information needed to meet the child’s true needs.  Generally speaking, children want to know that the adults around them are dedicated to their safety and protection and that this is the adults’ responsibility and not theirs.  “Let me worry; you play,” is what I often say to children who are overly anxious.  While nothing can be assured, if children are confident and secure in the adults around them, it will be easier for them to return to normal.  And even if the adults themselves are anxious or unsure of their ability to protect their children, they need to keep a strong face for them and process their own doubts elsewhere.

Here are two links that may help: The first is a three-minute video by Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media. (You’ll recall that his book, Talking Back to Facebook, was the suggested summer reading book for TPS parents.)

With more timely versions of this sure to emerge in the coming days, this second is a link to Education Weekly and suggestions they created for parents discussing the shootings that occurred over the summer in Colorado:

In the meantime, we should all hold are children close, do what we can to make them feel safe, and make sure to be grateful for all that we have as so many struggle with this new tragedy.