Director of Education Dr. John Malloy shared the following letter today with families of elementary students attending schools in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.
Also see this tipsheet for parents supporting children after a crisis event.
Dear HWDSB Families,
Like you, we were shaken and saddened by the tragic events that transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, Dec. 14. We keep within our thoughts all of the families affected, and the courage of all those whose only instinct was to protect the children.
Thankfully, school violence of this nature is very rare in Canada. Still, we maintain safeguards and emergency protocols so that we are prepared. We also know that parents have a role in supporting safety, and in talking to children after a tragedy has occurred.
Our social work services team has prepared some tips that may assist you while helping children and youth to feel safe at this time:
Be reassuring. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Your reactions are important. Recognize that some children may be concerned about something bad happening to themselves, family or friends. Explain to them the safety measures in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take care of them.
Be a good listener and observer. Let children guide you to learn how concerned they are or how much information they need. If they are not focused on the tragedy, do not dwell on it. However, be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behaviour or social interactions.
Monitor the news. Images of a disaster or crisis event can become overwhelming, especially if watched repeatedly. Young children in particular may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. Older children may choose to watch the news, but be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible. Allowing children to deal with their reactions is important but so is providing a sense of normalcy. Routine family activities, classes, after-school activities, and friends can help children feel more secure and better able to function.
Spend family time. Being with family is always important in difficult or sad times. Even if your children are not significantly impacted by this tragedy, this may be a good opportunity to participate in and to appreciate family life. Doing things together reinforces a sense of stability and connectedness in children.
As educators, we know the trust you extend to us with your children each day; we take our responsibility for school safety very seriously. If you are concerned about your child or feel he or she needs additional support, please contact your principal or vice-principal. They will be able to connect you with our social work services team. There are also additional supports available on our website at www.hwdsb.on.ca.
Our flags will remain at half-mast in an expression of support to the community of Newtown until the end of the day on Friday, Dec. 21. As the holiday season and winter break approaches, please take the opportunity to enjoy time with family.
Dr. John Malloy
Director of Education