RENO, Nev. – For the last nine years a non-profit group called the Solace Tree has been helping area children and teens cope with death. Executive Director Emilio Parga says events like the Connecticut shooting will have a lasting effect on kids all over the country.
“Three thousand miles away we are grieving as a community,” Parga said. “We are also in shock and we're saddened by these deaths.”
He says the most important thing parents can do is be available for their children.
“We want to sit children down and let them know something very bad has happened,” Parga said. “We want to encourage expressions; if they want to write about it, draw about it then we encourage that. We want to encourage questions and if we don't have answers we can say 'I don't know' but give the opportunity to let children hear what you have to say. Listen and be present.”
When it comes to discussions like these he says honesty is the best policy.
“Don't be afraid to tell them what happened,” Parga said. “This happened in a school and kids are going to hear about it. We always say we'd rather have the children know from their parents or caregivers other than hear it from somewhere else because there's so many rumors. On this day 20 children died and it's a great opportunity to talk about death, to introduce the concept and let them know there's someone there to listen.”
He says there are many resources in the community and it's important to have a place children feel safe.
“They are going to be scared and we want to let them know they're safe,” Parga said. “Right now I now the Washoe County School District everything they can. There are crisis response teams; if children are scared when they come to school they can see a counselor or talk to someone else in the school where they feel safe.”
The Solace Tree provides services like support groups, counseling, workshops and volunteer training.