Palo Alto Weekly Online Edition

Uploaded: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, 11 a.m.

Schools help parents talk to kids

Tips for dealing with crisis

by Jennifer Deitz Berry

Assistant Superintendent Irv Rollins said unless events change, the schools will remain open, "as we feel that the community looks to us for a sense of security and a sense of stability."

He said district officials remain in close contact with city and police officials.

Rollins said school psychologists and counselors at every school are on alert, and will be available to meet with children who find the events troubling.

"While we urge you to send your children to school, should you prefer to keep your student home, please let your school secretary/attendance clerk know. The district will excuse these absences," said Interim Superintendent Robert Golton.

All schools will be sending home a letter to parents at the end of the day, explaining how events were handled and offering tips on talking with children about the tragedy.

Ruth Malen, principal at Duveneck Elementary School, said her school's goal has been to "maintain normal routines and structures at school and to encourage parents to do the same at home."

She said teachers were sent a memo before school giving them discretion to talk with children in their classes about the events, as seemed appropriate. Generally speaking, older children have wanted to spend more time discussing the events, while younger children have needed only brief explanations, Malen said.

Malen offered the following tips for parents on how to talk with children about the tragedy. The information will also be included in letters home.

1) Be supportive and reassure children that they are safe at school and at home.

2) Minimize children's exposure to television coverage of the events, as the news can often exacerbate their concerns and confusion.

3) If children are watching television coverage, ensure adults are also watching to explain and mediate what the child is hearing.

4) As appropriate their children's age and maturity, parents should discuss the events and feelings that develop. As appropriate, discuss the events with the child.

Malen also cautions parents against providing children with more information than they're emotionally prepared to handle: "The basic thing for grown-ups to think about with kids, in any situation, is not to volunteer excessive information. Let children's questions be their guide."




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