School counselors this week in Dubuque have their work cut out for them, with two grade-school students killed, their mother — a longtime school volunteer — hospitalized with wounds from an attack, and their father, a high-school tennis coach, charged with the crimes. Ruth Ellis, director of student services, says counselors hope to reach out to families as well as schoolkids shocked by the events of this week. Grief does not end in a week, Ellis, and counselors help parents explain to their kids how rare this tragedy is in the community and ask parents in turn to work with the school counselors. Ellis says the public schools notified families, to help lessen the likelihood of rumors. They sent home a letter, as the school always tries to do when news of a tragedy is learned, telling parents how everyone’s saddened by the event. Ellis says parents often want to help their kids cope but have trouble getting past their own sadness, and often lack information. Ellis says taking your child out for a coke, finding time in a busy world to have a conversation like this may help. How do you explain to a 7- or 10-year-old something you don’t understand yourself? She says to help, the school sends home a sheet on signs of disturbance to look for in a schoolchild, and a booklet titled “Helping a Child Cope with Trauma.” Ellis says parents may think it’s best to avoid talking with a child about tragic news happening to someone near them, but even if they need to wait a while it’s always best to be truthful with a child, and help them talk about their feelings.
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