Helping Children Cope with National Tragedy
Are you wondering how best to speak with your child about certain current events? Here is valuable information about helping children cope with a national tragedy.
What Schools Can Do
- Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well prepared to take care of all children at all times.
- Maintain structure and stability within the schools. It would be best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next few days.
- Have a plan for the first few days back at school. Include school psychologists, counselors, and crisis team members in planning the school’s response.
- Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say and do for children in school and at home.
- Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not during the public address announcements.
- Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to students and staff who may need or want extra support.
- Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families. Even a child who has merely visited the affected area or community may have a strong reaction. Provide these students extra support and leniency if necessary.
- Know what community resources are available for children who may need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in directing families to the right community resources.
- Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers. They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate it. Other activities can include art and writing projects, play acting, and physical games.
- Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeance. Stop any bullying or teasing of students immediately.
- Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health professionals in the school. Inform their parents.
- Provide an outlet for students’ desire to help. Consider making get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, firefighters and police.
- Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the event as well as the aftermath.
Reprinted with permission from the National Association of School Psychologists website.
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