Suzanne Krumpelman, counselor at St. Joseph’s School in Fayetteville, Ark., speaks to first-graders Feb. 9. (CNS Photo by Travis McAfee)
Students at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Rochester had questions following a May shooting at a Texas elementary school.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the incident, when a gunman opened fire inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24. As American adults and children struggled to make sense of the tragedy, a student at St. Lawrence School asked Counselor Jacquelyn Kuhn why anyone would do such a thing.
“Another student asked me, ‘What happened to the guy who shot those people?’ “recalls Kuhn.
Counselors, trusted adults reassure students, answer questions about school violence
Kuhn said she chooses her words carefully when answering such questions.
“I turned this question back to the student and asked him what he thinks should happen to someone who does something wrong and hurts other people, and then we talked about it,” said she declared.
In response to the question of why someone would shoot other people, Kuhn explained that sometimes people who hurt hurt others.
“That’s why it’s important to talk to a trusted adult when we’re going through a tough time. It can be hard to ask for help when we’re going through a tough time, but it’s worse when we let it go. accumulate,” Kuhn said.
Such conversations provide Kuhn and other faculty and staff with an opportunity to remind students of the policies and procedures in place to keep them safe. Only main office staff are supposed to let visitors into the building, for example, and others are not supposed to open doors for visitors or leave them open.
“I also explain that it’s important that if you ever see something out of place or know something is wrong, you tell an adult,” Kuhn added.
Tips for Parents to Help Initiate, Lead Conversations About School Violence
Kuhn said she followed up each student conversation with a message to that child’s parents, explaining the types of questions the child asked and what was discussed. It’s important for parents to have their own conversations with their children about incidents that can weigh on children’s minds, she said.
When it comes to engaging in conversation about a sensitive or troubling topic like school violence, finding out what the child knows is always a good first step, Kuhn said.
“If there’s any misinformation, we talk about it first so they have the correct information,” she said. “Then we talk about what happened, letting the student lead the conversation. This is also the time to encourage them to ask questions. I would rather a student ask a trusted adult than another student who may have incorrect information. »
Every conversation should include a reminder that children have people in their lives who are there to protect them and keep them safe, Kuhn noted.
Watch for signs that kids want to talk but don’t know where to start
Parents should look for opportunities to talk to their children about school violence or signs that children want to discuss the topic but don’t know how to start the conversation, according to a fact sheet produced by the National Association of school psychologists.
“Watch for clues they might want to talk about, like getting high while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer to write, play music or do an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities – such as drawing, looking at picture books or imaginative play – to help them identify and express their feelings,” the tip sheet says.
It is also important that parents, teachers and others who work with children filter the information they provide and present it in a way that children can easily understand and manage it, according to information provided by the ‘American Academy of Pediatrics. Thus, a parent’s conversation with a kindergarten child may sound different from a conversation with a high school student, even though the general topic is the same.
Parents should also be on the lookout for signs that a child might be in distress and not doing well, according to the AAP. Some signs of such distress are:
• sleep disturbances
• physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches
• behavioral changes, such as becoming more irritable or clingy
• emotional problems, such as sadness, fears, anxiety or depression