Trumbull Supt.: How to Deal with Sandy Hook Anniversary

Trumbull Supt. Gary Cialfi
Trumbull Supt. Gary Cialfi

The following comes from Trumbull Schools Supt. Gary Cialfi. 

Dear Parents/Guardians:

As you are already aware, the December 14th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy is fast approaching. Honoring the memory of those precious lives lost requires us to find the strength to relive the events of that day accompanied by the added pressure from the media barrage of details concerning the newly released report. And as the report continues to receive daily media attention, its content may generate a range of emotional reactions.

Although I am certain that you are already concerned with how much exposure you want your child to have, you may want to consider speaking directly to your school's psychologist, social worker, counselor or administrator to assist you in establishing a support plan. The staff in each of our schools will be monitoring all of our students and are prepared to react to any indications of distress. Hopefully, the attached information from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network will be another helpful source of guidance for you.

As always, our hearts and thoughts are with all who have suffered as a result of this tragedy. Please contact me or any school staff member if we can be of assistance to you.


Gary A. Cialfi, Ed.D.


Tips for Families on Addressing the Anniversary 

As we move closer to the anniversary, we wanted to acknowledge how this may be another challenging time for your family, as anniversaries can create renewed feelings of distress and increased worries about something similar happening again. We can also anticipate increased media attention. We are providing the information below as one of the steps we are taking to address concerns about the anniversary.

What can I look for In my children? 

Children may react to the anniversary in a variety of ways, depending upon their age, developmental level,and their previous experience with trauma and loss. Some children may become anxious, agitated, withdrawn, or even aggressive. School-age children can demonstrate very specific new fears and avoidant behavior related to what they now perceive as unsafe/risky situations. Adolescents may be more reactive to rumors and respond with more reckless, acting out behaviors. For some, it may evoke a range of personal feelings of loss.

Who might need additional support? 

•     Those children who were directly affected by this tragedy, the anniversary carries very personal meaning

•     Children who have a history of trauma, violence, or sudden loss may require acknowledgement of their own personal tragedies

•     Children who tend to be anxious may be more reactive to informaiton about the anniversary, be more susceptible to rumors and misconceptions, and have a harder time being reassured.

How can you help?

•     Anticipate reminders related to the anniversary and help your children recognize and learn to cope with them. A child may not be fully aware of what he or she is remembering and may react with increased distress without knowing how or why the anniversary is triggering those feelings. By understanding children's specific reminders, adults may be able to help them to react less strongly and cope more successfully. 

•     Let children acknowledge the anniversary in their own way. Some children may express considerable interest, while others may choose to ignore it altogether. Don't force children to participate in ceremonies or memorials, or overload them with information. Take your cue from your child. There is no one right reaction. However, parents should make themselves available to talk to children about their thoughts, fears and feelings if and when they are ready.

•     Be honest with children. It's OK to share some of your reactions and concerns. Kids learn by watching their parents. When grown-ups are holding back, they can usually tell. As you reassure your child, remember to be a realistic and positive role model. Some children will ask, "Could it happen again?" It's best to answer such questions as honestly as possible. One approach is to tell children that lots of people are working very hard to make the school and our community safe. Point out the new procedures at school (e.g. the presence of police officers at schools, entry procedures for visitors) to help them understand the efforts that are being made. 

•     Share any concerns you may have about your children during this period of time with teachers, school counselors, school social workers or administrators so that they can offer additional reassurance and be alert for signs of distress. 

•     Repeated exposure to media stories about the anniversary may heighten children's anxiety and distress. Try to limit your child's exposure to such stories. 

•    Provide children with opportunities to make a positive difference in their daily lives and in their community. Taking constructive action is an antidote to fear and helplessness. Families, schools and communities can use the anniversary as an occasion to strengthen ties and renew shared values. Bethel Is a community committed to the idea of compassionate acts of kindness. There is great power in a community supporting and believing in the notion that each of us can make a difference and that it is our compassion and genuine caring for one another that connects us. Talk as a family as to what constructive acts you may want to commit to during this time and moving forward. 

•     Don't forget to take care of yourselfl Make sure you take good physical care of yourself, including eating well, sleeping well,and receiving proper medical care. Take time to reach out to other parents and provide support to one another. Most importantly, give yourself extra breaks during this time.

Adapted from information provided by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network

MAC December 14, 2013 at 02:27 PM
From Mrs. Parker, mother of Emilie: "'Evil only wins if we allow it to,' Alissa said. 'The world around us wants to remember the violence and horrific details of that day, but instead, we choose to turn off those distractions and allow ourselves to draw as close to her as we can and feel [Emily’s] spirit, joy and light she brought into our family.'"..................................................................... This article is touchingly beautiful and hopeful. It reveals why Emilie Parker was such a beautiful child INSIDE as well as outwardly, and in her joyful and unselfish actions. The Parkers also express gratitude for the small and great acts of 'paying it forward,' such as described here:.............................................. "Last month, a playground in New London, Conn., was named 'Emilie’s Shady Spot' in honor of the first-grader who preferred to play in the shade. Pink roofs adorn jungle gyms and pink monkey bars line the park. Everywhere there are flowers and pieces of Emilie’s artwork...................................................................... "Every so often, the Parkers receive a photograph of the play area from someone in New London who wants to make sure the Parkers don’t miss the sights of children enjoying their daughter’s special place more than 90 minutes away from their home........... "It’s one of 26 playgrounds that will be built across the Constitution State in honor of the Sandy Hook victims."........... http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57255288-78/emilie-parker-alissa-family.html.csp?............................................................ Well worth the read.


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