Connecticut School Tragedy…Helping Young Children Cope With Trauma

1993...The Year of the Graduations (Junior High, High School and College)

1993…The Year of the Graduations (Junior High, High School and College)

We raised our three children in a small Connecticut town less than thirty minutes from yesterday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  When I heard about it, my first thought was to call my kids (who are now 30-somethings with families of their own) and gather them close.

For twenty-five years we lived happily and…for the most part…peacefully.  Our children went from elementary schools to middle schools to high schools and finally to college.  We held onto their bike handles as they learned to ride a two-wheeler and we held onto our hearts as they learned to drive a car.  They kept us up at night when they were babies…and we stayed up late when they got older, waiting for them to come home from a date or event.  We shared their joys and sorrows…helped them with their homework and tried to guide them along the difficult path of growing up.

They didn’t always agree with our rules…and we didn’t always agree with their behavior.  But I would do it all over again in the blink of an eye.

There are twenty sets of parents in Sandy Hook tonight who have been robbed of this.  There are twenty sets of parents in Sandy Hook tonight who will never help their children ride two-wheelers, or watch them perform in school plays or walk them down the aisle when they get married.

My heart goes out to everyone involved…the residents of Sandy Hook/Newtown, the school staff, the family and friends of the shooter and those directly impacted…parents, friends and families of the children and adults who were murdered.

I know that every parent who heard about this is praying for the families.   If you have young children, you may be wondering how to handle this situation.  Those directly impacted will be receiving professional counseling…but what should you do if your family was not part of this horrific event?

  • If your children have heard about the tragedy, encourage them to talk about it. 
  • Be honest with them…but age-appropriately…if your children see you are upset, tell them you are sad about what happened because these are real people, not video game or movie characters.
  • Reassure them that this was a bad thing that happened, but that you will keep them safe and that there will always be someone to take care of them.
  • Tell them you are happy that they are fine and that you love them.
  • Young children may not verbalize what they are feeling, so watch your child’s behavior. 
  • If you see a sudden change in your child’s behavior, consult your pediatrician. 
  • With all the news on the media, even children who have not been directly involved may experience trauma and need counseling.
  • Speak calmly about the situation and try to carry on with planned events and regular routines.

The holiday season should continue…because keeping to routines is one of the best ways to reassure children that all is well.  So I will  continue with my post as planned.

There is a holiday writing contest over at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

dashing through the snow

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story beginning with any version of “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh.”  You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version “[Verb of your choice]ing through the [any substance you choose] in a [conveyance of any kind].”  For example, “Dashing through the sand in a two-wheeled donkey cart” or “Sloshing through the swamp in a green and white canoe” or “Flying through the air in a striped hot air balloon…”  You get the idea, I’m sure 🙂  But “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh” is completely acceptable too – whatever works for you 🙂  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words (because I have to read them all in the week before Christmas! :))

I love Susanna’s contests…they encourage me to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to writing children’s stories.

Because I’ve been so busy, I had left the writing of the story until the last-minute.  With the tragedy in the news, I was tempted to write a somber tribute…but decided instead to submit something light and silly…something that might bring a smile to the faces of the children who were in the school, but survived.  Based on the nursery rhymes that all children know and love, I give you, “Mother Goose, Apple Juice, Chocolate Mousse and More!”

Mother Goose, Apple Juice, Chocolate Mousse and More

by Vivian Kirkfield (228 words)

Hiking through the snow

In brand-new Christmas boots.

Tripping as we go

On gnarly old tree roots.

Humpty-Dumpty rolls,

Then Jack and Jill fall down.

Muffet drops her bowls

As we pass through the town.


Mother Goose

Apple juice

Chocolate mousse and more

We’re on our way to The House Jack Built

For a holiday galore!


We can’t find the sheep

Bo Peep has lost them all.

Wee Willie wants to sleep

He leans against the wall.

We’ll have lots to eat

Jack Horner brought his pie

Hot Cross Buns are sweet

And Jack Sprat made stir-fry.


Mother Goose

Apple juice

Chocolate mousse and more

We’re on our way to The House Jack Built

For a holiday galore!


Everyone is dressed

In special party clothes

Peter Piper’s vest

Has pickle juice and bows.

Mother Hubbard’s kids

Each wears a new chemise.

Bobby Shaftoe skids

On silver buckled knees


Mother Goose

Apple juice

Chocolate mousse and more

We’re on our way to The House Jack Built

For a holiday galore!


Here we are at last

Sweet music fills the air

Horn gives out a blast

Boy Blue blows with great flair.

Mary and her lambs

Hip-hop the whole night long.

Lucy Locket jams

With King Cole’s fiddlers’ song.


Mother Goose

Apple juice

Chocolate mousse and more

We’re on our way to The House Jack Built

For a holiday galore!


I hope you all enjoy this silly little children’s holiday rhyming story.  In the next few days, many others will be linking up on Susanna’s contest page.  Go and check them out…you won’t be disappointed!

And please come back on Sunday…I have a wonderful guest poster, author and amazing personality speaker, Sheila Glazov…you definitely won’t want to miss it!!!

75 thoughts on “Connecticut School Tragedy…Helping Young Children Cope With Trauma

  1. Thanks for your post, Vivian. It was a sad and sober weekend for us. We did talk with our son about the shooting, but kept things pretty vague (he’s in second grade). Actually, I chickened out of the talk and my husband did it. I just didn’t think I could talk about it without becoming very emotional, and I didn’t think that would help the situation. Our principal emailed to say that they won’t be having formal discussions about it, but have prepared some talking points if students bring it up. I think that is for the best. They need to just carry on with life as usual.

    I loved your story! I like how you worked in all the nursery rhyme characters. Who is Bobby Shaftoe? I haven’t heard that one.


    • Thanks for sharing how your son’s school is handling this situation. In the final analysis, it is the parents and home environment that will help every child keep on an even keel. I think it is especially difficult to talk with our young children about something like this because at every moment, we are wanting to hold them tight and cry tears of joy that we have OUR child safe. 🙂

      Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea
      Silver buckles on his knee
      He’ll come back and marry me
      Pretty Bobby Shaftoe 🙂

      Have a beautiful holiday season, Carrie…I’ll be reading all of the pb writer’s ms’ this week. 🙂


  2. I am sorry I have not posted before now. I turned my computer off Saturday afternoon. Your post is thoughtful and I appreciate you for it. Your family is beautiful. You must be so proud. Your story is amazing!! I love it! I also love that you had Mary and her lamb hip hopping. Too funny, girl! Your poem is so creative. So fun!


  3. Thanks for the thoughtful entry on the horror of Connecticut linking it with your family. I feel the same way for those families. That they won’t share in the growing up of their children. And the families that were robbed of an adult are not cheery this season either. I had a hard time deciding weather to post my entry or not because it wasn’t cheery but since I had planned on it long before the shooting I went ahead and did.

    Your cheery take on Mother Goose made me smile as it did for many others. It is a side of you to bring joy to others. Thanks for being you. 🙂


  4. Your post prior to your contest story is a touching tribute. Thank you for sharing. Your Mother Goose story is a perfect way to honor the Sandy Hook Elementary children. Mother Goose, Apple Juice, Chocolate Mouse and More has a nice ring to it. Very catchy!


  5. So creative, Vivian, I love this!

    And I’m in agreement with those above. In the wake of tragedy, our children need to feel as secure as possible (even while the adults mourn and struggle). Thank you for penning something so light and cheerful.


    • Maria…your comment makes me happy I did this post…and wrote the Christmas rhyme the way I did.:) I love that you also feel that adding a light-hearted moment is helpful when there is tragedy. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.


  6. Pingback: Newtown Tragedy…How Do We Move Forward? « Positive Parental Participation

  7. Loved your entry to Susanna’s contest, Vivian. Such wonderful images of Mother Goose characters celebrating the holidays – a sure crowd pleaser with young children & definitely needed this week!


    • I appreciate your sweet comments, Patricia! I wrote it with images of young lives lost drifting in and out of my head…I’m glad it made any sense at all…and I’m thrilled you feel it would entertain little ones. 🙂


  8. I enjoyed your entry. I’m all up for Apple Juice and Chocolate Mousse! It’s very sad for the families, the community and the nation.


    • Thank you so much, Margaret! ‘Mash-up’…what a great word for what I did.:) Glad you like it. I think the best part of Susanna’s Holiday Contest is having the opportunity to read everyone’s entries…they were FANTASTIC!


  9. I’ve had this page open for two days now trying to think how to reply. How do you respond to such a terrible tragedy? I think you’ve done a beautiful tribute and I love that you posted your upbeat and silly rhyme. We need fun and laughter more than ever in the sad days following the tragedy. I think those children up in heaven would be smiling and your fun rhyme. P.S. I love the title!


    • Thank you so much, Jo. I think we have all been affected by this horrific event…maybe because we are so involved with children…writing for them, teaching them, raising them. I’m glad I touched your heart with my post and so glad you like the silly rhyme.:)


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