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Therapist shares simple idea that helped traumatized kids feel calmer after Sandy Hook

A clinical psychologist describes what helped children cope in the aftermath of another mass shooting at an elementary school.
/ Source: TODAY

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, is sharing a helpful solution for how to help children cope after a traumatic event.

“Kids process their feelings through play and art,” Campbell told TODAY Parents

Campbell was working in Connecticut in 2012 when 20 students and six adults were shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown

“What helped: We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm — we then hung them up around the school — to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at,” Campbell began a Twitter thread on Wednesday. “But really, it gave the kids something to ‘do’ that felt useful.”

She added that kids, just like adults, “want to feel helpful when they feel helpless.” 

“And they loved the idea that they could help ‘other kids’ feel better,” Campbell wrote. “(They were the scared ones, but it’s easier to talk about the ‘other kids’).

“We didn’t use the language ‘safe’ place because that can be a tough and loaded concept for kids who never feel safe. So we used language around feeling ‘calm’ or ‘peaceful’ and the kids ran with it. Many asked to make multiple pictures. We were ready to wallpaper the place.”

Related: A Sandy Hook mom on the fresh pain of every mass shooting

The elementary school where Campbell worked at the time was just 30 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“The kids were really frightened and overwhelmed,” Campbell told TODAY. “They all came asking questions like, ‘Am I safe? Is someone going to come and shoot me?’ It was absolutely heartbreaking.” 

Campbell opened up on Twitter in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The May 24 massacre that killed at least 19 students and two teachers was the second deadliest shooting recorded in the United States, behind the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook. 

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