Talking with Students in Response to the Sandy Hook Shooting

love; beautiful hands of children holding green heart shapeI’m sure all of you are heartbroken over the tragedy of the shooting at Sandy Hook. I’m also sure that you’ve been very busy trying to prepare for your response at school tomorrow and in the following week. I too have been busy trying to make sure that we have all our supports in place at my school, while also supporting the new elementary school counselors in my district as they plan their responses. And also while trying to care for myself as I process this horrible situation and steady myself for the work I need to do.

One of the things I did was to create a script for my colleagues, outlining how and what I will say when I go into the classrooms tomorrow. In case that is also helpful for you, I have linked to it here. It is only an outline of what I will say, and I wrote it with 2nd/3rd graders in mind as a way to give a general sense of what I say, but I will be sharing the same information, using adapted language for the older and younger kids. I also included information about some activities we will do as part of the classroom discussion. Please feel free to use or adapt it if it is at all helpful for you.

There have been many wonderful resources circulating over the past few days to share with staff members and parents. Here are the resources that we shared with parents this weekend. We did not want to overwhelm them, but wanted to make sure that they had good, easy to read information, and these resources from PBS Parents fit our needs most closely. We specifically shared the age-by-age links that you will find on this page.

Please be sure to take very good care of yourself today and in the coming week. Tomorrow will be very difficult. It is a challenge to manage everything, make sure that everyone from the littlest child up through the principal is okay and feeling supported, and hold all of the strong emotions, while simultaneously remembering everything you want to do and say and managing your own emotional and physical well-being.

Yes, it is difficult, but you can do it! Be present, be open-hearted, and be honest with yourself about how you are doing. Make sure to bring a good, easy-to-eat selection of healthy foods and plenty of water. Wear comfy shoes. Plan to leave school as soon as you can after the end of the day. From my experiences on and following 9/11 and in the times that we have had tragic deaths of students and staff members, I predict that I will be extremely tired at the end of the day. Eat dinner out of the freezer, or get take-out, or go out to eat if you feel up to it or if it would feel good to you. Do whatever  you find most nurturing and rejuvenating.

I am so grateful that we now have this wonderful support system of school counselors who help and support one another despite our geographic distances. Thank you for everything you offer to all of our school counseling, mental health, and educator colleagues across the country and around the globe, as well as to the students, parents, and staff in your schools. You are a treasure. I am thinking of you, as I know you are thinking of me. 

With love and gratitude,


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17 responses

  1. Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing what you did. As a first year counselor, I’m nervous about what tomorrow will bring, but I tried to process as much emotionally as I could this weekend so I can go be strong for everyone else tomorrow! Thank you for your helpfulness in this time.

  2. Thank you so very much for sharing your script. I am not a school counselor. I am just a regular teacher who has been tasked with teaching Character Education to fourth and fifth graders this year. I wasn’t sure how to approach things tomorrow. But I feel much better with your script in hand. I will check with the school counselor in the morning to see whether she will address classes or not. If she is, I won’t have to give “the talk.” But if she isn’t, then I will use this with my students.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing! Your kind words and helpful outline will go along way in helping children. Take good care of yourself and may God Bless you!

  5. Thank you! I am sending your script out to my teachers today. This was very needed! Thanks for taking the time to do it so many others can have the right words.

  6. I’m a school social worker and I used your script when I spoke to all the 4th and 5th grade students at my school today. It was extremely helpful and led to great questions and comments from students. Thank you for sharing this amazing resource!

  7. Thank you so much for this. I wish I would have found it earlier. This being my first tragedy as a counselor…I wished I would have done more initially. As I move forward….I will tuck this document away for future use…and take what I have learned to use next time around. Thanks again for sharing!

  8. Thanks for crafting a beautiful and thoughtful script. I work as a dean at a private school an California. Our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers used it as a guide or directly and found it so helpful. The just right language served as an anchor for a sensitive topic. What ensued were amazing conversations and fearless expression of feelings. All felt safe, comforted and empathetic. Thanks again.

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