I received a wonderful email from a high school teacher in California who has decided to help inspire her students to reach for greatness in their lives. Part of her letter is as follows:
“This morning during final exam time (2 hrs long, I teach high school) I decided to cut exams in half and spend half the period in a brainstorming session about how to build kindness in to our everyday lives. The kids came up with some beautiful ideas. I am going to compile the list and publish it for the school community.I also showed them your website, and when we get back from winter break we are going to begin a business unit, the first assignment being the development of a non-profit agency concept. They were really grateful for the opportunity to talk today and express themselves in this way. And I’m sure the abbreviated test helped make them happy as well!”
This sort of thing needs to take place in all schools, offices, households, etc…
- Stay calm. This situation is literally a nightmare for parents—I know. Kids don’t need you to telegraph your fears on to them. Turn the TV off when young children are present. Repeated news reports can make kids anxious.
- Give them a chance to voice their fears and answer their questions honestly and patiently. These may seem like small things, but they’re very important for kids struggling to process a disturbing experience or terrifying disruption in their lives.
- Be direct but also developmentally appropriate in your conversations. And remember, it is always a series of conversations, not a single sit-down. Expect a child to come back again and again with questions as they build a narrative about what happened; with your help it can be a healthy one, even if it is a very difficult subject. Make kids feel safe with love and continued routines. Security gives children confidence at the same time that it lets them be kids while they need to be.
- Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on kids and be alert to signs that they might not be recovering in a healthy way—changes in their patterns of sleep and eating, unusual irritability or trouble focusing, obsessive or pervasive worry.