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Dec 18, 2012 Exploration Programs English Immersion Emergency Medicine Orthopedics + Sports Medicine Startup Entrepreneurship Alumni News Veterinary Science Foreign Affairs EXPLO Today Grades 8-10

Talking About Newtown: A Resource Guide

By Moira Kelly, Executive Director of ...

Lisa Merlini

By Moira Kelly, Executive Director of Explo

The kind of tragedy that happened in the American town of Newtown, CT is almost impossible to comprehend. This weekend, I wrote notes to seven Newtown families who have recently sent children to Explo, letting them know that we were thinking of them and that our hearts are heavy for all of those lost in the community.

Given the horrific events of this past Friday, families in Newtown and beyond are contending with feelings of tremendous sadness, anxiety, fear, rage, and helplessness.

After the attacks of 9/11, Explo’s senior administrators spent months training with Maria Tozzi, Director of the Good Grief Program at the Judge Baker Children’s Center — the mental health facility affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School — because we were due to welcome a number of children who had lost parents that day, and we wanted to make sure that we were prepared to support them. We also knew that even if they had not lost a family member, all children were affected by this tragedy, and would also benefit from additional caring and support.

In the wake of these feelings, I have once again been thinking of Maria and her work, and wanted to share some of these resources with our extended Explo family. She has written a wonderful book called, “Telling Children About Loss.” You can find an excerpt from the first chapter here.

If we charter the boat of mourning with our children, they will realize that only by confronting death and loss and integrating them into their life can they truly embrace living and loving relationships" — Maria Tozzi

In addition, there are numerous online resources for parents and teachers looking for guidance on how to talk to children about loss, tragedy, and violence. A few of the stronger ones come from New York University’s Child Study Center, and are among the resources we use at Explo:

Talking with Children About Difficult Subjects: Illness, Death, Violence and Disaster

When Someone Close to Your Child Dies Suddenly: A Guide for Parents

Attending Funerals or Memorial Services

Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help

This tragedy radiates far beyond Newtown. Many children are going to think and talk about what happened, and many need us to be able to talk about it with them. Discussing these kinds of things isn’t easy. But an adult engaging in a thoughtful conversation with a child can be incredibly comforting to the child — and often to the adult. As Maria so eloquently and often says, “If its unmentionable, it’s unmanageable.”

Lisa Merlini

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