Talking to your children about tragedy: Help is available

POULSBO — Friday afternoon, when local elementary school children returned to their homes and their parents and guardians, the world had changed considerably since the day started.

At 9:30 a.m. in Newtown, Conn. — 6:30 a.m. Pacific time — a gunman walked into a school not much different than theirs and shot and killed 20 students and six staff members, then killed himself.

The news shocked and grieved the nation. But North Kitsap elementary school students likely went home unaware of what happened; they were in class as the news was reported here.

“Most of our children don’t know anything about it,” Poulsbo Elementary School Principal Claudia Alves said at about 2 p.m. Friday. But the district emailed letters to parents and guardians to help prepare them for the task of discussing the tragedy with their children.

“The most important thing is make sure the information you share is age appropriate,” Alves said. “Answer their questions, but don’t give them more than they need to know.”

District community relations coordinator Jenn Markaryan said the schools have counselors available to help students and parents, come Monday. “And there are resources coming down from OSPI that we are sharing with our staff to help them help the kids [next week].” That information is available here. OSPI is the abbreviation for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

If you need more assistance, help is available at the 24-hour Crisis Hotline, (360) 479-3033, (800) 843-4793; and from Kitsap Mental Health, (360) 479-4994.

Jon Torgerson, principal of Suquamish Elementary School, said it’s important to reassure students, “letting them know they're safe, that we have a plan in place … [that] all the adults here are here to keep them safe,” he said. "We don't want to scare the kids, we want to let know we're doing everything we can to keep our school safe and protect them.”


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