A time of fear, a time to offer support

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Dr. Richard O’ Connell, a veteran school counsellor, comments on the after shocks of the Conneticut shooting on kids and parents everywhere.

The mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday is leaving schoolchildren everywhere as well as their parents feeling fearful and vulnerable, according to Dr. Richard O’Connell, a Shelter Island part-time resident who continues to volunteer in suburban school systems and works with individual children here as well.

“There are many children out there who will fear for themselves when they hear about this,” said Dr. O’Connell of the Newtown shooting. “They need constant reassurance and a sense of perspective” from three support groups: their families, their peers and their school.

“Any opportunity that people in these three support systems have, they should be reaching out to this children, ” he said. “They should make a special effort … All I’m saying is that those who can should be very reassuring on every level, from the custodian to the police officer on the corner.”

At the same time, kids who don’t fit in are more likely than ever to face ostracism and bullying, Dr. O’Connell said.

“It’s a human phenomenon.” It’s a valid notion that “kids in school who are open to a great deal of bullying and criticizing could easily transfer this idea that ‘you are a potential assassin’” to kids who, for one reason or another, are different.

“Don’t let anybody get away with that,” he said.

He said the family members, peers and school personnel must be vigilant and sensitive and ready to reach out to those who need their support.

“The goodwill of the season can be shown in our understanding of the plight and suffering of others,” Dr. O’Connell added.