Peinovich tells parents, caregivers and teachers:
- Pay attention to children’s actions following traumatic events: Children may startle more easily, seem more irritable, and be reluctant to be separated from parents or caregivers.
- Reassure the children that they are now safe: Acknowledge and validate their feelings that what happened was very, very scary. Ongoing media coverage can give preschoolers and elementary school children the impression that this is a permanent situation. Parents and schools should limit media coverage and reassure children that the event is over and they are safe.
- Maintain routines: Caregivers and educators should strive to maintain similar schedules, whether it’s what children eat for breakfast or when they go to recess. Changing schedules suddenly can increase anxiety.
- Understanding recovery times: In about four weeks, most children will return to their previous level of functioning. If children are still having difficulty after a month, they may need additional support.
Trauma can make it difficult for children to learn. Here’s how teachers can help.
A child psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Northwestern University School of Medicine, Colleen Cicchetti helps lead the hospital’s efforts to improve how local schools deal with trauma. Chalkbeat interviewed Cicchetti about the cost of childhood trauma in communities and what teachers can do to support healing.
Her tips for teachers include:
- Establish a predictable and “safe” classroom: This helps students understand expectations and what they need to do to be successful. Taking breaks helps them focus.
- Ask for help, even if you have to look outside your school: A teacher may not feel like they can tell someone they are struggling with a student or feel isolated. This can lead to burnout.
This principal had a student killed a few days before the start of the year. Here’s how he and his school found a way forward.
After one of his 6-year-old students was killed two weeks before the start of the school year, a california manager wrote that the experience taught her a lot about what it means to communicate authentically with young children about death.
“I desperately hope that no one else will ever need to use the lessons I learned,” wrote Danny Etcheverry, director of Rocketship Spark Academy. “But I know they will, so here are some ideas that have helped guide us – and that might ease the burden a bit on educators who find themselves with such a task.”
Among his advice:
- Communicate honestly: “My staff members, alongside our school’s mental health professionals, determined that our students would need explanations of the event from people they trust and a space to process. these explanations.
- Provide different types of assistance: “I spent a lot of time in the classrooms those early days, and I was struck by how those moments are initially much more emotional for adults to deal with than for young children… With our more young students, we spent a lot of time talking about the concept of death and tragedy.
- Treating aggravated trauma: “In the weeks since the shooting, it has become clear that this tragedy is on top of some students’ previous injuries… Healing is a long journey, and we are only just beginning.”
How anti-bigotry lessons help students understand violence and push for change
The non-profit group Facing History & Ourselves provides educators with resources to help students understand the lessons of history to fight bigotry and hate. After the death of Tire Nichols – the 29-year-old skateboarder and photographer who died days after being brutalized by Memphis police officers during a traffic stop – a local leader spoke with Chalkbeat to help the students of Memphis deal with the death of Nichols.
Among his advice to educators:
- Don’t always feel the need to talk to students after witnessing or watching a violent event“We listen to them. We really let them sit with it, because the last thing we want to do is minimize their pain. Our teachers are really good at listening and letting the students speak. We don’t want to say that everything will be fine, because it may not be fine.
- Focus on lessons that humanize students, so they can think and have conversations: “In August, when we had the situation with the shooter [19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly was charged with killing three people in a citywide shooting spree], I went to Central High School and listened to Mary McIntosh’s Facing History & Ourselves class. She slowed it down and asked them to freely write it down in a journal, throw it all away, and gave them the power to talk to each other.
Students share what they need after the crisis and reflect on what needs to change
Teens say it takes self-love to get through times of crisis
A group of about 20 Detroit teens set out to learn two things about their peers: how they practice self-love and how they find peace in a world in which they constantly feel judged.
These are pertinent questions as schools struggle to meet students’ mental health needs. These issues existed before the pandemic, but isolation, the lingering effects of remote learning, and the challenges in the midst of a global health crisis have compounded them. The Detroit teens detailed their findings and, in some cases, expressed their concerns in articles that seek solutions.
Not every upsetting event should become a lesson
Dark trauma doesn’t need to be channeled into an inspiring lesson, wrote a high school student in New Yorkwho was haunted by the experience of a teacher making him watch the video of Tamir Rice’s murder.
He helped his school develop a course on mental health
A Newark high school student went to 19 funerals in the first year of COVID. When he wasn’t saying goodbye to the people he cared about, he wrotehe was in front of a screen that was his link to school and friends for a year and a half.
“I was already in the process of starting a wellness council, a club where students could share their struggles and hear about what others are going through. If we could start this club, how about a mental health class integrated into the school day? … The result of all this planning is an actual course called Health and Wellness.
Chicago schools ‘peace warriors’ spread messages of non-violence
The Peace Warriors Programa central part of some schools’ efforts to address gun violence by centering students’ needs, trains students to mediate conflict, support grieving classmates, and bring peace and happiness to the school by greeting peers at the front door and leaving birthday notes on lockers.
“Our biggest goal is to end violence – anywhere and to do that – we must first end violence inside of ourselves because violence begins internally with thought. “said DeMarcus Thompson, then 17 years old. Peace Warrior at North Lawndale College Prep. “To achieve our goal, we must work together.”