The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Grief specialist offers tips to help children reacting to school shooting

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  • Marsha Johnson a grief recovery specialist, author and speaker said the Friday’s Connecticut school shooting may effect children all over the country, even if they appear unaware or unconcerned about the tragedy. Johnson said often children process heir fears and grief in silence.

    “Children become easily distracted and have difficulty following through on the simplest of tasks when they are grieving or upset. They usually grieve in short spurts and grieve when parents or other adults are not around. Their initial grief can be very strong and the child might cry loudly or become hysterical,” Johnson said in a press release. “As adults, it is important how we teach our children to process their fears and grief as they are learning lifelong coping skills. When children learn to effectively work through particular fears and losses, they gain self confidence as they realize they can cope with life’s challenges.”

    Below is a list of emotional and physical symptoms children might experience during a time of tragedy and grief. In addition, some suggestions as to what adults can do to assist children through difficult times.    

    Physical Signs of Grief

    Depending on the age physical symptoms can include:  


    Thumb sucking

    Sleeping problems

    Stomach aches


    Eating disorders

    Identity confusion

    Little or no motivation


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    Emotional Signs of Grief 

    Withdrawal from family and friends


    Denial of loss

    No display of emotions over the loss

    Conflicting feelings about hanging on and letting go

    Avoids talking about the loss

    Experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, anger, guilt and shame

    May regress to an earlier stage of development

    Aggressive behavior

    What Adults Can Do 

    Ask questions

    Provide guidance and reassurance

    Answer children’s questions honestly and simply

    Address children’s fears

    Listen to them when they are ready to talk

    Give lots of hugs

    Take time to hold them

    Encourage additional sleep

    Maintain normal routines as much as possible

    Give children permission to cry and grieve

    Consult outside sources for help if you believe a grieving child is not doing well
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    Consider using the terms died or dead - children can become easily confused by other terms such as “passed away” or “fell asleep”

    Encourage children that the wide range of emotions they feel are normal

    “If a child is acting out from fear or grief, rather than isolate them to their bedrooms consider alternative means. Bedrooms are for sleeping, not for punishing. Encourage children to express their feelings by allowing them to cry and tell you how they feel. However, they must understand that they cannot hurt others or break things in their anger. If a child is doing something unacceptable, remember to tell the child that he is good but that his behavior is not allowed,” Johnson said.