While many people are trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy that unfolded in Logan after the recent death of 5-year-old Lizzy Shelley, some are also trying to comfort children who are also struggling.
“Children have magical thinking — that’s one of the beauties of childhood,” said Esterlee Molyneux, executive director of The Family Place. “But with that, they may think something like this will happen to them and they might feel very scared.”
According to Molyneux, The Family Place has received numerous calls from parents who want to know how they can talk to their children about Lizzy, who was allegedly taken from her home and murdered by her uncle on May 25.
The most frequently asked questions have been “how did this happen” and “why did it happen?”
“I think it is important for us to process — there will never be an answer for that because it does not make sense,” she said.
Instead, she said, it will be critical for parents to watch for behavioral changes, offer assurance to children that they are safe through loving touches and routines, even something as simple as “every night before we go to bed, I’ll read you a story, give you a kiss and tuck you in.”
In addition, Molyneux said, children mourn very differently than adults so playtime will be key in the coming days or weeks.
“They need to act out their feelings that way and they need a safe, caring, trusted adult close by in case they have a question,” she said.
Another question commonly asked by parents in the last two weeks is how can such a tragic incident be prevented in other families.
“For children, what makes the biggest difference hands down is — they build resilience when they have at least one caring, trusted adult who is in their corner,” she said. “Every child needs a champion.”
She also suggested being proactive.
“To watch our community come together has been nothing short of miraculous — we can have each other’s backs, we can be there when times are challenging,” she said. “Instead of throwing down the arm of judgment, how about if we uplift and support? That is where the change will happen.”
The Family Place had organized a kite-flying festival and barbecue on Saturday in North Logan as part of its Be Kind Utah campaign. Additional activities have been included in the event so parents can spend time doing something with their children that is meaningful.
“In our beautiful community here in Cache County, we’ve done wonderful things for Lizzy and her family, with fundraising, we held a beautiful candlelight vigil — but The Family Place is holding an event … where we can do something,” Molyneux said. “We’re inviting children and families to come and bring some rocks … we have different colors of paint and we’re going to make a rainbow rock garden in Lizzy’s honor.”
Participants in the kite-flying festival are encouraged to bring rainbow-colored kites, she said. There will also be printed materials with information sheets about how to talk to their children after a traumatic event, other resources and information about when to seek professional help.
“If two or three weeks go by and they are still talking about this a lot, maybe it is time to talk to an outside professional,” she said.