I write you this morning with an incredibly heavy heart as all of us process and grieve another unspeakable tragedy in our nation. The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas at an elementary school has claimed the lives of nearly 20 young people and has left all of us devastated. As a new parent with my own 9-month old baby, I can’t begin to fathom the loss that a group of families are coping with today and each day forward as a result of this horrific act.
We should never have to think about how to communicate with your children about such incomprehensible acts of violence, and we should not be in a place in our world where we are discussing school safety protocols to prevent such tragedies, but that is our deeply unfortunate reality. As such, below are some important tips for your family (and our staff) in supporting our young people and speaking with them about tragedies. Further, I’ve shared key reminders about the consistent protocols and safety features that are in place at our schools.
We will provide this same guidance and these same resources to our full staff at U Prep. Teachers will not bring up the topic of the school shooting, but will be equipped on how to speak with children following the recommendations below. For any children who demonstrates signs of distress or continues to bring up the event, we will have mental health staff available to support them individually
If you need anything at all – access to mental health services, someone just to speak with, support with your child – whatever it may be, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your campus directly and we will provide you with whatever support we can.
Today, more than any other day, I am thinking about each and every one of you and the safety and well-being of your children.
With love and a deep commitment to your scholar(s),
Founder & Executive Director
David I. Singer
How to speak with Children About Tragedy:
- There’s no one way to address tragedies with children, and how parents approach it depends both on the child’s age and temperament. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children until they reach a certain age — around 8, but again, it depends on the child.
- Prevent children from seeing pictures or the news. Images will stick with children longer than words. The ongoing coverage can cause fear and anxiety that children do not have the skills to process.
- Process your own emotional response away from children if possible. What you do and how you react will impact them more than what you say.
- Pre-school / Kindergarten children should be shielded from the news as much as possible. If you talk with your child about the event, consider a one sentence story. Keep the story simple. Perhaps you want to let them know that a person with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people. Reassure them that grownups are working to keep them safe.
- Early Elementary children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
- Upper elementary children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
Additional resources to support speaking to your children:
- Talking to Kids About Violence
- Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting (American Psychologists Association)
- Coping with Violence
Protocols/ safety features in place each day to ensure your child’s safety:
- Exterior doors are locked at all times. Anyone entering the building must buzz in at the main entrance. The office staff checks the camera before buzzing anyone in.
- All visitors enter through the main doors and report to our front office staff. Those visitors engage in a full check-in process before further entering the facility.
- Volunteers are pre scheduled and check in at the office when they arrive.
- All volunteers working with our children have passed a background check.
- Adults outside have a walkie talkie or cell phone to communicate with the main office and school leaders.
- Children practice a range of safety drills to ensure they (and our adults) are all prepared for an emergency.
- In case of an unlikely emergency, the office has a distress button that connects directly to the Denver Police Department. If it is pushed, DPD immediately sends a response team to the school.