Sandy Hook students, teachers head back to school

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm •  Published: January 1, 2013
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After the evacuation, teachers grouped their children at a nearby fire station, Robinson said. One sang songs, while others read to the students, she said.

Julian Ford, a clinical psychologist at the University of Connecticut who helped counsel families in the days immediately following the shooting, recommended addressing it as questions come up but otherwise focusing on regular school work.

"Kids just spontaneously make associations and will start talking about something that reminds them of someone, or that reminds them of some of the scary parts of the experience," Ford said. "They don't need a lot of words; they need a few selective words that are thoughtful and sensitive, like, 'We're going to be OK,' and 'We really miss this person, but we'll always be able to think about her or him in ways that are really nice.'"

It will be important for parents and teachers to listen and be observant, Ford said.

"Each of the boys and girls are going to have different reactions to different aspects of the environment, different little things that will be reminders to them," he said.

Parents might have a harder time with fear than children, Ford said.

Before the shooting, a baby sitter would take Connors' children to the bus stop. But Connors said he'll probably take the third-graders to the bus the first few days.

"I think that they need to get back into a normal routine as quickly as possible," Connors said. "If you're hovering over them at all times, it almost intensifies the fear for them."

His children, who escaped unharmed, ask questions about the gunman.

"It's hard for us to say why," Connors said. "That's kind of what we tell them. This person wasn't well, was sick and didn't get the help he needed."

Connors said his children are excited to go back to school but predicted they might be nervous as the first day approaches. He hopes the grief counseling services continue, he said.

"It's going to be a long road back," Connors said. "Back to what I guess is the biggest question. Everyone keeps throwing that word around the new normal. What does the new normal look like? I think everybody kind of has to define that for themselves."