The news of the school shooting that happened on December 14 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.
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:
“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.”
Possible Discussion Questions:
Using a circle process, each participant can have the opportunity to address each question.
As a closing statement at the end of the discussion, encourage care in this time of stress and confusion.
“Remember small acts of disrespect can lead to violence. But small acts of kindness and peacemaking have the power to stop violence and create peace. This is the time to practice acts of respect and kindness. Help each other out. Solve any conflicts or disagreements peacefully. Talk to me or other adults if you have further questions or concerns.”
For further resources, contact the Safety, Health and Nutrition Unit of MDE, 651-582-8433.
Adapted from You’re The One Who Can Make The Peace 1999 Tool Kit and Cordelia Anderson, Sensibilities, Inc. 4405 Garfield Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55409, 612/824-6217; email: Cordelia@visi.com