As news unfolded Friday Fairfax County Public Schools officials were directing parents to resources that would help them start conversations in their own homes.
In a post on the schools' homepage Friday, officials posted links to the system's emergency resources and also offered some guidance on how to handle details of the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School while talking with children.
Parents of children of all ages should "try to watch television with your kids (especially during the news), listen for their questions, and answer them honestly," a PDF posted by the school system reads.
Tragedies affect everyone, both children and adults. Children need to talk about their fears, frustration and disbelief. It's important that we are watchful for these emotions and encourage open discussions. Children may be worried:
- that the event could happen to themselves or a loved one.
- that they could be separated from someone they love or be left alone.
- about their safety or that of their loved ones.
How much information parents share, and children can process, will vary. "Depending on their age and level of maturity, children will perceive things differently than adults."
It recommends keeping things simple and leaving out gory details with younger children (those under nine years old). Older children will be able to handle more information, it says, but gauge your own child's comfort level when you're choosing to share specifics.
"Be supportive and reassuring during your discussion," the system writes.
The system also steered parents toward its emergency preparedness and support page, as well as a list of security measures in place at Fairfax schools.
FCPS reminded parents of its own emergency alert system, FCPS Keep In Touch, in which parents can subscribe to emergency messages by email.
Other places to check for more information in the event of an emergency at a Fairfax County school:
- School system public web home page.
- Cable Channel 21.
- Local media.
- The system's pages on Facebook or Twitter.
How are you discussing the shootings in Connecticut with your family? Leave suggestions in the comments.