Grieving Children–Give Them the Tools of Expression

For those of us who have so little ability to express our sympathy and compassion, here is one way to reach out and care:


Two small teddy bears


If you would like to mail sympathy cards, postcards, letters of support, and teddy bears for solidarity to the school of the shooting victims :

Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482


   TALK is an adult term.  We TALK about our problems.  We have TALK therapy.  We tell other adults that “we are here to listen,” and “you need to get it off your chest.”


  PLAY is the children medium that meets the adult expectation for TALK.  For a child to be able to “tell us what is in her heart” she often needs to PLAY.  There are different TOOLS that children can use, but basically here is a list that might be helpful to the Newtown children (and other children who have heard adults talking or have watched the television with all the information and pictures):


Sand Play Therapy/ Sandspieltherapie nach Dora...

Sand Play Therapy



  • boy and girl figures (these are toys that are a few inches high.  Dolls can also serve the same purpose).
  • play small guns (I know a lot of people do not want any kind of gun in their home, so for those who do not want play guns in their homes, you may fashion a pretend gun out of cardboard or styrofoam.  The gun does not need to remain, but it is helpful for the child to have the tool, if needed.)
  • male and female figures (again, small dolls or even cardboard cut-outs).
  • Something to represent a school and home.


Some children will want to TALK and by all means encourage this form of allowing the child to express himself.  But most children under the age of  8 often feel more comfortable PLAYING what they are feeling or believing or questioning.  Our role as adults is to give accurate information in an appropriate developmental language.  We are not to be judgmental or chastising.  Everyone is entitled to their feelings and beliefs.  We may counter a child’s belief with our own belief, but in a respectful manner that says “I believe this and you believe that.”  This is helpful to the child, to know what a parent/adult is believing.


Some children like to draw and will want to draw their feelings and beliefs.  For all PLAY, we are to remain non-judgmental.  Much of what we think we are seeing becomes a “this” or “it” instead of our labeling what we think the child is drawing.  So, “And this is  . . . .”   “That one is going that way” instead of “The bad man is going that way.”  Do you see how to be non-judgmental?


Play therapists are very helpful in working with children who have been traumatized (often, the most traumatized child is the one who listened but never saw anything.  This child made up her own pictures of what was happening.).  You can find a play therapist at the Association for Play Therapy.  You can also find a wealth of information on this site.

Be gentle with your heart and the hearts of our children.





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