Talking About the News: Helping Children Cope With Current Events
The news of a school shooting that happened can be very scary for a lot of children. The challenge in helping them cope with today's events is that it is also scary for many adults. Here are some pointers.
Adults' Role. Try to be calm and focused for the children. Adults need to get the support they need from other adults so we are able to effectively guide the children.
Talk and Listen. Find out what children's fears, concerns are and address them as directly and calmly as possible. Reassure them that adults are there to help and protect. Circles and dialogues are ways to help children talk about their feelings and what they can do to cope. After giving children time to talk, return to the regular school routine.
Use Your Resources. School staff should remember that there are community groups and organizations that are willing and able to help you talk to children, including counselors, members of the faith community, public health, and sexual assault and domestic abuse programs. Pay attention to their needs.
What To Say Or Do After A Tragedy
After a local or national tragedy, it is very important to make time for discussions about what happened among family members, staff, children and youth. Here is a suggested format for a classroom or group discussion:
In a classroom or group setting, a circle process is a useful method to have a discussion. But with any process used:
- Allow everyone to speak; to ensure that everyone has the chance to speak, go in order around the circle or rows;
- Reinforce positive social norms and values of the group, even if anti-social statements are made;
- Recognize that difficult feelings are normal, natural and need to be expressed, but need to be handled respectfully and in a manner that de-escalates conflict rather than fuels it;
- Build communication and connection and defuse tension by inviting people to share their thoughts and feelings.
"What has happened today is sad and painful. What we know at this point is: (give facts as you know them.)
"When bad or scary things happen it is important to take a big breath or whatever it is you do to help calm down. Pay attention to the facts. Be careful not to spread rumors.
"Be careful to stay out of dramatizing the drama - which means try to calm yourself and others instead of fanning the excitement.
"That said, it is still important for you, the students and me to be able to express our feelings and share our thoughts and concerns. Let us go around the classroom (or circle) and talk about what has happened."
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