To keep everyone posted on the Jessica Ridgeway Story, and to help you discuss it with your children and family, DPS sent this email to parents whose kids are enrolled in the Denver Public School System last night.
Some of the tips included are appropriate for tweens and younger teens, but older teens with younger siblings may want to take a look at this also.
Out thoughts are with the Ridgeway family and their loved ones and community.
Dear DPS Community:
We all have heavy hearts this evening upon learning of the very tragic news of the death of Jessica Ridgeway. This is a very sad day for Colorado.We wanted to share with you some very thoughtful and helpful information that was sent by the Boulder Valley School District about how we can help our children and each other in coping with this unspeakable tragedy.
If you or any of your family needs additional support, please email Steven Nederveld in the DPS Mental Health Office at Steven_Nederveld@dpsk12.org.
Our thoughts are with Jessica’s family and with all of our families.
Denver Public Schools
The news of Jessica Ridgeway’s death can be extremely unsettling for both children and parents. As such, we hope to provide parents with information that will help them to talk to their children about Jessica’s death. The most important thing that any parent can do is to remind the child that they’re safe, that they’re loved, that they are supported, that this is a very horrible thing that happened, but that they’re going to be okay. The first thing kids always ask is why. It is very important not to focus on trying to answer the why, but to listen to their feelings, to bring them back to how they are feeling, and to what we can do to help the child feel better.
When talking with children about death, it is very important to be truthful. With younger children, it is important that they understand the concept of death, and parents should use honest and direct language to help explain what death means. Finally, it is important to allow children to express their feelings openly and honestly while consistently reminding children that they are safe and that the child who died did not DO anything wrong.
If younger children are unaware of the situation, this event may only prompt you to talk about Stranger Danger- talking to your children about the dangers of interacting with someone they don’t know. It is important not to combine the Stranger Danger conversation with a conversation about her death, as this may scare children unnecessarily that any conversation with a stranger could lead to death.Parents also need to acknowledge their own feelings. It is a natural reaction to be extra cautious at this time. However, if as a parent you feel that you are at an extreme level of cautiousness, you might want to seek professional, therapeutic support.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, parents can use the following tips to talk to children about tragic events.
- Be reassuring.
- Be a good listener and observer.
- Monitor the news.
- Emphasize people’s resiliency.
- Highlight people’s compassion and humanity.
- Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible.
- Spend family time.
- Do something positive with your children to help others in need.
- Ask for help if you or your children need it.
For more information on talking with children about death and loss and about age-appropriate reactions and grief reactions of concern, please see the following:
For additional readings, please see the following links:
From the Boulder Valley School District Counseling Office