Community incidents can be deeply upsetting for both staff and students. Media involvement can surround individuals with upsetting details and images, potentially triggering distressing emotions. It is important to keep in mind that these events are rare. Schools are one of the safest places for children and youth during the school day, and an important place for them to receive support, a calm environment and connection to caring adults/peers.
Communication and collaboration among schools, families and communities is important to ensure that students continue to view schools as safe, caring, and supportive environments. Further, how adults react to community incidents can impact the way children and youth respond.
Adults can reinforce students’ sense of safety and well-being by:
- creating a calm, predictable and welcoming environment
- bolstering well-being and healthy coping strategy activities
- listening for and responding to students who may be struggling with the information or events, and accessing appropriate mental health resources for them
- connecting families with other available resources if needed
Families are encouraged to:
- spend time together
- create time for conversation and checking in
- validate their child’s feelings
- ask for help as needed
- find calm and relaxing activities to do at home
It is very important to limit exposure to media coverage, particularly for young children. If children or youth are watching the news or accessing information online, families and caregivers should be available to check in and talk to their children about it.
Families and educators will support children and youth to understand and cope with the impact of the incident. Most children and youth are resilient and will cope well with the support and caring of their families, teachers, friends, and other caring adults. However, young children may have particular difficulty understanding and describing their feelings and emotions.
Some tips to help children and youth cope include:
- Provide a developmentally appropriate, clear, and straightforward explanation of the event, without sharing graphic or unnecessary details
- Address unhelpful rumors which may be circulating and to refocus children and youth on facts.
- Support children to return to normalcy and routine, while maintaining flexibility.
- Let children and youth know it’s okay to feel upset or angry about the event.
- Observe and listen to the questions and statements about the event, reach out for support if you are concerned.
- Provide various ways for children and youth to express emotions, either through journaling, writing letters, talking, meditation, yoga or music.
- Focus on resiliency as well as the compassion of others.
This is an important time to reinforce the natural coping strategies of children and youth, and emphasize the proactive steps that can be taken to maintain a safe and caring environment.