There are so many things happening in the world today from natural disasters to social unrest to violence on our streets. It is impossible to shield children from all of the possibly traumatic current events of our time.
Whether you plan to have a group discussion with children about an event, or a child asks you a question, you need to be comfortable talking about current events in a way that is reassuring and honest.
• Whenever possible, prepare a list of developmentally appropriate answers and statements about the events. Work with members of leadership or other disaster- or trauma-related resources in your community to identify what would be considered appropriate for the children in your group. Share this information with families so they are aware of the language you plan to use. They may also benefit by having this information in their own conversations with their children.
• Be factual about the event. Use simple language. Share what is being done within the community to address the situation.
• Validate the emotions that the children express. Help them identify any emotions they may not be able to name. Telling them that the event is “nothing to worry about” invalidates their feelings and should be avoided.
• Reassure children that they are safe in the program, both physically and emotionally (to express themselves). Remind them of the security features of the program that are designed to keep them safe. Avoid the statement, “I promise…”
• Follow the children’s lead. Answer questions they have and refer to your planned talking points. Child may be satisfied with the answer to their question and not need any more information or details. Don’t over share. If the children no longer seem interested in the conversation say, “Thank you for coming to me. If you have any more questions, or just want to talk, let me know.”
• Use children’s literature to generate conversations about topics of social justice and recovering from natural disasters. Invite community helpers to visit the classroom to discuss how they keep the community safe.
• Hold conversations in small groups whenever possible. This will allow you to check in with and observe each child’s response to the conversation.
• You may ask older children about their opinions about an event. Remind children to listen when their peers are speaking. Promote perspective taking and empathy.