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Top 5 Important Things To Consider When Discussing A Tragedy or Crisis With Students


In a perfect world, teachers and parents would never have to discuss national tragedy and the nature of evil with their students.

But we live in the real world and sometimes the pain that a nation or community is feeling bubbles up and enters the conversation in our classroom.

Typically, such situations arise after acts of terrorism, school shootings, and similar heartbreaking events that confound even us adults.

Such discussions can be very tricky and touchy for classroom teachers. Avoid the possible pitfalls and keep the following key tips in mind.

1. Parental Guidance Is Preferred

It is far better if each student's parents could handle any and all discussion of life and death, good and evil. Whenever possible, try to facilitate this happening.

But as educators who are sensitive to the emotional well-being of our students, we can often tell that our students need to talk. Children can be confused by overheard snippets of adult conversations or news reports. However, they are too young to process the information on their own.

If your students bring up the tragedy organically, you will have to address it straightforwardly and as best you can.

2. Avoid Controversial Or Political Statements

Extremely emotional events can bring out heated debates about politics, religion, morality, and other controversial topics. This is the main reason why it's best for any discussion of death or destruction to come from the parents.

However, if you find yourself having to discuss an upsetting event with your class, stick to general statements that can not come back to haunt you.

Remember that children are parrots; they will repeat what you say back to their parents. Avoid contradicting what parents are teaching their children at home. Keep your words neutral and comforting.

3. Some Children Won't Know About the Tragedy.

As the more aware students start to bring up the topic of the tragedy, you'll notice that other children won't even know that anything troubling has occurred.

When this happens, make sure to explain the event as briefly and matter-of-factly as possible. Don't exaggerate, assume, or say anything more than the bare minimum number of words. Suggest to all of your students that they ask their parents about it when they get home from school.

Don't let the informed and perhaps frightened students alarm the others. Keep control of the conversation and stop all side conversations before they start.

4. Say Anything To Calm And Reassure Your Students That They Are Safe

The most important thing is that your young students know that they are safe at school and at home, and that the adults in their lives are actively protecting them.

Do everything possible to avoid playing into their anxieties, and steer them towards security and normality.

If you follow this rule above all else, you can't go wrong in your discussion.

5. Move On As Quickly As Possible

During times of senseless tragedy and loss, it's easy for all of us to fall into a spiral of worry and despair. Don't allow the class discussion to continue beyond the point of facing the facts and providing reassurance.

We're all in school to learn, and what better distraction than discovering something new and positive about the world through math, reading, or science?

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