COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - News Leader 9 has been keeping you updated on the Tuesday morning house fire that claimed the lives of a Columbus mother and her two young daughters, and the Muscogee County School District is helping the young girls' peers deal with their loss.
Dealing with a tragedy like this is sometimes harder on the children than we may realize. That's why school officials are forming a crisis team for teachers and students who knew the two young girls.
School guidance counselor Carmen Weeks explained, "We form a team. We enter the school, talk to the administrator and the designees of that school to meet the eminent needs of the children."
Ten-year-old Zakoya Bankston was in the 5th grade and her sister six-year-old Mackayla Gulley was in first grade at Brewer Elementary School, but now their classmates have to deal with their absence.
"A loss is going to be significant at any age. The children sometimes don't know how to vocalize themselves or know what to say. They don't know how to feel," said Weeks.
Weeks says bringing up the topic of death with your child is a difficult process, "A lot of times the children aren't aware of what death is. They don't understand death is final. Some children think that tomorrow that child will come back, or that teacher will come back. Just prepare them to know about loss and what to expect."
But she adds if parents know how to look for the signs of grieving, it will make the conversation easier, "We invite parents to be involved. We send a letter home with the parents explaining the situation, and then ask the parent to sit down with their child and explain to them more, and be supportive and to look for those signs."
If all else fails, Weeks says you can initiate some activities that will help the young children deal with losing their friends, "Give them ways to cope with loss. Some activities we do are to let children voice themselves with individual communication, write poems, draw pictures, we also have students who just want to be quiet."