The recent national events are not easy to discuss with students, no matter their age or grade. The Ministry of Education offers the following suggestions for teachers and parents:
Tips for Teachers
Listen carefully and be honest. Talk openly with your students about the tragic events with clear, age-appropriate information.
Avoid rumors and misconceptions. First talk with other teachers in the school and your principal about what factual information to provide.
Give your students the opportunity to gently face the reality of what has occurred. Include plenty of time during the day for class discussions in which the children can express their emotions and ask questions.
Assure the students that their feelings are normal. Admit when you don’t have specific answers, and share your own feelings with them, even if your feelings are difficult.
Comfort your students. Emphasize that they should not be afraid to share how they feel and to cry if they want or need to.
Stick to a normal school day routine. Routines can provide a sense of comfort for students who feel that their lives and emotions are out of control.
Before they return to school, ask students who have suffered personal losses if they would like to discuss the death of their loved ones with the class. Set the tone for the discussion by explaining to the other students how they can support their grieving classmates by listening and being there for them.
Incorporate activities that allow your class to process their feelings. Ask your students to write about their feelings.
Encourage your students to express their feelings Through Art. This may help them express thoughts they are unable to articulate. Provide opportunities for your students to work together on a class project, like a memorial mural.
Create an educational forum. Set up forums and discussion groups to discuss the events, and give students a chance to express their views. Reaffirm the inherent value of all human life.
Tips for Parents
Reassure children that they are safe. Reassure them that everyone in your family is okay and tell them that you-their parents and caregivers-will keep them safe.” Hugs help too! Your children may be clingy or more in need of attention than at other times. That’s okay.
Explain that feeling upset is normal. Communicate to your children that being sad or crying about these events is okay.
Talk about the tragedy with children old enough to understand recent events. Tell your children the truth, but make sure that your explanations are age-appropriate. When talking to your child about the tragedy it is important to remember that all children are different and that your goal is to be understanding, reassuring, and accepting of children’s feelings. Younger children will need brief information combined with reassurances of safety and love. Older children will be able to ask more involved questions and may need more detailed reassurances about why they are safe. Give children the answers to their questions and try to avoid speculation.
Be a good listener and ask your children why they are asking the questions they are asking, to get to the root of their anxiety. Some children may have shown few emotional reactions and many may not ask any questions. That’s okay, there is no need to press for more. Others will bounce in and out of feelings of grief or worry.
Try to keep your routine. This fosters feelings of safety and stability.
Encourage young children to express their feelings through art. This may help them express thoughts they are unable to articulate.
Stay calm. Children take cues from your behavior. It is okay to show that you are upset, but avoid expressing strong feelings of anger, fear, or hopelessness.
Try to spend more time with your children. Tell them that you love them and engage them with quiet, calming activities.
Limit exposure to the media. Avoid “staying glued” to the television or radio. Instead, watch/listen for a brief time and then talk about what you are seeing/hearing.
Good things can come out of the bad things that happen. In addition to reassuring your child that her environment is safe, children can be given the message that sometimes, good things can come out of bad events.
Don’t punish children for reverting to behaviors from an earlier age, e.g., bed-wetting. Instead, encourage them to verbalize the feelings behind their actions. These behaviors will subside over time.Be in touch with teachers and caregivers to ask about your child’s behaviour. Pay attention to any words or actions that are out of the ordinary.
Take care of yourself. Your children take cues from your words and actions, and you will need to take care of your own needs in order to stay calm and strong for your children. Seek out community resources to find the support you need.
Call the MOE/LIME Helpline – 1-888-KARE
*Selected from the web sites of The National Education Association, National Association of School Psychologists, and www.tolerance.org.