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Remembering Zander and Zayden Brown: How to talk to your children about the tragedy

12:38 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
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Zander and Zayden Brown
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Clearwater, Florida --  School resumed Monday morning at McMullen Booth Elementary School, where 9-year-old Zander Brown attended third grade.

Pinellas County deputies say Zander and his little brother Zayden were killed at the hands of their own mother before she killed herself.

It's one thing to be an adult and try to comprehend how a mother could kill her own children. For a child whose mother is the one person in the world they are supposed to trust, it's that much harder.

"It's very important that you use this as a teachable moment, that parents remind the child that they're safe, that they're loved, that they are supported, that this is a very horrible thing that happened, but that they're going to be okay," explained Vicki Koller, a guidance counselor at McMullen Booth Elementary School.

A crisis team of grief counselors are working with students and staff as they deal with the tragedy. While school staff are trying to keep the school day as normal as possible, they are also reaching out to children who may need someone to talk to.

Koller is encouraging parents to talk to their children if they have questions about what happened and she says it's OK if they don't have all the answers.

"What's important to remember is that it's OK for an adult to say they don't know. For children, it's important they see hard things happen in life and that even adults don't know what to do," said Koller.

Over the weekend, as children left letters and stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial in front of the Brown family home,
the school district was preparing for the first day back in class knowing, the children will wonder why Zander is never coming back.

"The first thing kids always ask is why. I think it's very important you focus on not trying to answer the why, but listen to their feelings, bring them back to how they are feeling, what can we do to help you feel better," explained Koller.

Koller says if you notice any changes in your child's behavior, if they are not sleeping, eating or finding joy in what they are doing, there is help whether it's through your child's school or a community resource like dialing 2-1-1 that can provide you with assistance.

The crisis team will be available to students and staff at McMullen Booth Elementary as long as they are needed according to the Pinellas County school district.

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