by Marsha Rakestraw
In the past couple months there have been overwhelming natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, Mexico, India, Nepal, and elsewhere.
There have been terrorist attacks in multiple countries.
And war, violence, and destruction seem to be constant headlines.
And just yesterday, a new tragedy.
One headline yesterday read “More than 58 killed and 500 injured in mass shooting.”
When we encounter such devastating news, we can be overwhelmed with grief, rage, despair, fear, and hopelessness.
But as adults we have at least some shred of coping mechanisms and the capacity to understand some of the deeper issues of such a tragedy.
How do such horrific events affect our young people?
How do they view themselves, the world, and their future after such violence and destruction?
How can we help them learn to cope and to gain a deeper understanding (as appropriate) of the issues involved?
Here are several resources that can help educators and parents.
- Teaching Tolerance has several useful articles, including helping teachers respond to trauma in their classrooms, guidelines for educators in helping students cope with violence, and tips for teachers themselves to practice self-care while helping support students after tragedy.
- The National Association of School Psychologists offers tips for parents and teachers in talking with children about violence.
- The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a guide for talking with children about terrorism and war.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides examples of things to do and say and actions to take in response to children’s reactions after disasters.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a guide for parents and educators in talking to young people after disasters and traumatic events; it includes tips by age group.
- The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia offers suggestions for school counselors to help their school communities in grappling with tragic events.
- The Terrorism and Disaster Center at the University of Oklahoma offers suggestions for helping students cope with media coverage of disasters.
- The Child Mind Institute offers a guide for parents, teachers, and community leaders for “Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event.”
- The New York Times posted an article in 2012 outlining 10 ways to talk to students about sensitive issues in the news.
- Option B is a website designed to help “people build resilience and find meaning in the face of diversity.” While many of the resources are focused on personal loss and grief, there are still a lot of useful tips, stories, and suggestions helpful in assisting both children and adults in building resilience.
- And in a past blog post we shared 8 tips for discussing challenging global issues, which can help frame how you handle discussing traumatic events with your children or students.
It’s vital that we protect children, while also empowering them to be informed, compassionate, resilient citizens who are raised to be solutionaries striving for a just, peaceful world for all.
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