Saturday, November 14, 2015

Talking With Children About Tragedy

When tragedy struck on Friday evening in Paris I responded as an early childhood teacher.  Old habits are hard to break.  What will I say to the children in my classroom on Monday?  How much coverage will they have seen over the weekend?  What have families shared with children?

I don't have my own classroom now, and work at an administrative level, so am thinking broadly about how children react and respond to tragic, catastrophic world events.

What's Your Grief? (WYG) is a website and podcast about grief. This lovely post helps us to be intentional as we talk to children about tragedy.  However this guidance is also useful in thinking about how to help children through a variety of events.

A few reminders from WYG for teachers and parents:

  • Be aware of your own feelings. 
  • Let children lead the conversation.
  • Don't think that children's silence means that they don't know what is going on. 
  • Be clear about what is being done to keep everyone safe.
  • Spend time together and stick to routines. 
This coming week may be a time to slow down, work as if we are in the first weeks of school, and accept what looks like "regression" as an expression of children's worry and confusion. 

Last week's blog post about transitions included a good video that demonstrates the effect of stress on the brain.  For children who have or are experiencing trauma, catastrophic world events can trigger stress responses and impact social, emotional, and academic experiences.  Children's ability to cope with even simple transitions, low-level stresses, and self-regulate could be impacted.

Think about our children who may have recently crossed borders, who have experienced illness, injury, and death in their families, who are homeless or hungry, or whose families are subject to violence.  These children are especially vulnerable - but world events can create confusion and worry for all children.

The Somerville Family Learning Collaborative is an amazing resource for families, children, and early childhood educators. Reach out to them if you need other resources.

Parents and teachers need to take the time to examine their own feelings about these events and prepare to talk with children about topics we would prefer not to address, and wish we didn't have to address.

No comments:

Post a Comment