This past August, I sent my four-year-old daughter to school for the first time. She turned four at the end of July and started VPK not three weeks later. She was so excited that she didn’t even care that I left. She cried when I picked her up because she wanted to stay. In fact, she wanted to stay so badly that a few weeks ago she came to me with a blanket, pillow, and her little Hello Kitty lunch box and asked if I’d put lunch in her lunch box so she could stay at school all day long with her friends, even for naptime. My baby, who I have been home with since I was 29 weeks pregnant, wants to go to daycare. She wants to stay until 4:30 pm when outside playtime is over. She loves every second of it, and makes sure she gets to stay all day as I drive her to school in the morning.
Many kids love school, and that is wonderful beyond words. School is a safe haven, an environment where kids make friends, learn, and form relationships with others. With a little more than two weeks left to go until Christmas, I sat in my living room wrapping Christmas gifts while my one-year-old napped and my four-year-old was at school. I sat, not listening to Christmas music as my husband and I usually do, but with tears falling freely from my eyes as I watched with horror as the news reported that a man with a gun killed 28 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Suddenly, school does not seem like a safe place. Suddenly, I was fearful for my daughter. Believe me when I tell you my husband and I hugged her tighter than usual that evening. My daughter is, fortunately, too young to know what happened, and we don’t plan on telling her. She’s four. However, other kids who are a bit older will ask questions. What do you say to your child in the wake of such unspeakable horror? What do you say when a child looks to you with their innocent eyes and kind heart and asks you why school isn’t safe and why little kids were killed?
I don’t know what I’d say to my daughter if she were to ask. I know I would cry. I haven’t stopped crying thinking of those innocent lives lost. Death is not something that should be wasted on the young; it is something that should be embraced by those who have lived a long, full, happy life. It tears at my heart to think that anyone is capable of such violence. It tears at my heart to know that no matter what I do, I cannot keep my little girls safe at all times. That said, if you have a child you are sending back to school soon, you might have to answer questions and calm fears. Here are a few things you can do to ease your baby’s fears as he or she goes back to school.
Express the Isolation of this Experience
Fortunately, your child is safe at school. This occurrence is a very isolated one. Reassure your children that they are perfectly safe at school. The likelihood of something like this happening at their school is beyond slim. Express this repeatedly.
Have Fun with Your Kids
Do not let them see how much this affects you. Do not let them see how scared you are as you get them ready for school. You want them to feel safe at school. Express that this is a horrible occurrence and that you feel for the people involved, but do not allow your child to see just how much this has affected you. Laugh with them, joke with them, play with them, hang out with them; your kids need to know you are not afraid for them in order to prevent them from being afraid.
Listen to your children as they speak to you about their fears. Answer their questions with honesty. It’s the only thing you can do. Furthermore, ask your children to say a prayer for the children and teachers in Heaven and their families.