For the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Sandy Hook students will be returning to class on Thursday. Hundreds of students who attended the school in Newtown are expected to travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in nearby Monroe. The new facility is about seven miles from the original Sandy Hook school has been renamed as Sandy Hook Elementary and transformed to resemble an elementary school. Also, the new school has been outfitted with rugs and furniture similar to those from the old school and student desks and classroom decorations have been transported to the new location including the school's pet turtle. Clinical psychologist Julian Ford has worked to train mental health professionals in Newtown and this morning he weighs in on the Sandy Hook students returning to school.
When helping the children and parents of Sandy Hook feel comfortable with the return to school Ford says the most important thing for people “is knowing that past is not prologue.” He adds, “what’s happened is a terrible tragedy but now the community, the children and the families get to begin back on the path that they were on.” Ford goes on to say, “Even though nothing will be quite the same it’s wonderful that they have a chance to go back to a school where so much is familiar.”
Ford says the parents of the returning students should be calm and confident and even though they feel the impact they should know the children going back to school is the right thing to do. He adds that adults tend to associate objects from the past with a “replay of what’s happened and expecting that things like that will happen again in the future even though there isn’t that much of a likelihood.” Ford says children on the other hand are “really focused on the present moment so they go back into the classrooms and see the familiar objects and the desks very similar – for them it’s going to signify ‘ok I’m back in school...this isn’t Chalk Hill, this is Sandy Hook…I’m back with my friends, I’m back with my teachers.’” He says that resolve is what the children “need in order to have the sense of security to go back and dive right back in.”
In case you were wondering, Julian Ford is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
Starting Point airs weekdays from 7am to 9am ET on CNN. Check in often to join the daily conversation.