How to Talk to Children About School Shootings

At the epicenter of school shootings, lives have been forever changed and trauma has become part of those communities. The effects of these shootings can also be felt far beyond the epicenter. They have brought on a lot of stress and anxiety for American parents. It is no surprise that the stress and anxiety that adults feel are also felt by children. 

It is important to realize that children are very much aware of current events AND most schools are having “active shooter drills”. This topic is highly visible to children and we need to help them manage their feelings around this topic. 

How can you talk to children about school shootings?

  1. Start the conversation: The hardest part is starting the conversation. You may feel the desire to avoid this topic but in reality, discussing school shootings can help children feel less anxious. Ask your child what they already know about school shootings then allow them to guide the conversation and ask questions.
  1. Normalize the feelings: It is important to normalize the feelings they are having. It is completely normal for them to feel anxious, sad, and/or scared. Allow them to explore those feelings in a safe place. 
  1. Talk about safety: Let your child know that school shootings are actually very rare. Reiterate that schools have taken appropriate measures to help children stay safe. Without getting graphic, ask them what plans are in place to keep them safe at school. They may answer fire drills, active shooter drills, tornado drills, etc. 
  1. Connect with the community for support: Anxiety and fear can make children more reclusive and less sociable. Remind your children of the people within your community that helps keep them safe. Teachers, coaches, cross guard, police, camp counselors, etc. These are the people within the community that are there to keep them safe.  

Restoring Hope

Hope is the belief that tomorrow will be better than today and that you have the power to make it so.”

During times of high stress, anxiety, and/or adversity students may lack hope. Lack of hope can affect willpower which in turn can make it hard for children to self-regulate. The outcome can be explosive outbursts and impulsive actions. 

Dr. Chan Hellman, Ph.D. has studied hope extensively and believes it is the key to social-emotional well-being. Hope is a way of thinking and CAN be taught.  

What he has found to be the three key components to hope. 

  1. Set goals
  2. Identify Pathways: the ability to identify pathways toward goals (problem solve) and Find ways around obstacles.
  3. Cultivate willpower: the ability to sustain motivation to continue on the pathway in order to achieve that set goal.

In increasing numbers, educators in classrooms nationwide are seeing more and more children exposed to adversity, stress, and trauma. The impact of this trauma on the learning environment is felt throughout the hallways of schools as students struggle with academic performance, disruptive behaviors, and emotional insecurity.

Hope is the answer for the students, classroom, district, and communities. 

(READ MORE on the science of Hope)

Puzzles Help Keep young Brains Active During Summer

Keep Those Brains Active

Keep Those Brains Active

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin

During the pandemic, many conversations came up about gaining the “quarantine 15”.  (We might have all fell prey to some sort of weight gain!) There were months of more sedentary days. Just as our bodies get flabby and out of shape, our minds can get out of shape over the summer if we don’t engage them and keep them active.

Jigsaw Puzzles are a fun way to challenge the brain.  Young children learn the concept of fractions of the picture being a part of the whole.  They also learn shape recognition and fine motor skills.  Research suggests puzzles aid in increasing concentration and sharpening memory.  My mom typically got out a jigsaw puzzle in the cold winter months, but why not summer.  They are a fun way to give the brain exercise while also boosting our mood.

Learning a New Language is a great way to keep your brain active and challenged.  Today, there are many apps for young and old alike to learn a new language.  My 10-year-old granddaughter is doing this and has partnered with one of her friends as they challenge each other to complete 5 lessons each week.  This keeps both of them on track and in the process, they are learning French! A couple apps to consider are Duolingo and Gus on the Go.

Dance!  Dancing releases endorphins, improves coordination, strengthens muscles and is just plain fun!  Learning a new line dance or joining a dance class will keep your brain remembering the moves and sequences of the steps.  There are many tutorials on YouTube for learning a line dance.  May I suggest the Cupid Shuffle, a personal favorite.

Be the Teacher.  Teach a friend or family member how to do something, such as making a craft, playing a card game, or playing a musical instrument.  Being the teacher keeps your brain thinking of how to put yourself in the student’s shoes remembering when you learned.  You will have to recall each step in the process and think through the “how to’s” that will help them be a success.  Patience will be needed in seeing mistakes and knowing how to correct them.  Reverse the roles and have them teach you something.  Of course, learning exercises the brain every time.

Above are just a few of the many ways you can ensure that your brains don’t turn to mush over the break.  You can return to school knowing your brain is in shape and ready to learn. Follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice and make some investments in knowledge!

teacher relaxing outside in the summer time

De-Stress, Teachers

De-Stress, Teachers

Hats off and cheers to teachers!  You did it! If you’re reading this, you survived teaching through a pandemic—uncharted waters. Our appreciation and admiration goes out to you beyond words. All the things you had in place through your education and experience were like a “table cloth trick” yanked away for you to try to keep everything in place on the table with your students learning.  Now another school year is in the books!

If you got used to virtual learning/teaching, not so fast, you will more than likely return to your more familiar in-person teaching if you haven’t already.  Your rhythms and routines have changed back and forth. Like a chameleon, you have adapted and made it work.

Teachers, The old McDonald’s commercial jingle said, “You deserve a break today…” If anyone has deserved it, it is you!

Here are a few tips to put your school year in the past and enjoy a summer of relaxation and de-stressing:

  • Treat yourself –You are a survivor and this is an act of self-care.  This may mean going to your local ice cream place and splurging on your favorite sundae or purchasing that pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on.
  • Read a good book – Your time off is a great time to enjoy a book by the pool, on a beach, or on a hammock in the backyard.  Your escape to another time or another place through reading distracts you from daily stressors.
  • Exercise – Go to your neighborhood gym to do your favorite work-out or join a session of fun classes.  Keeping your body fit through exercise will release endorphins that improve your physical and emotional being.
  • Get away from the routines and schedules – If your time and resources can’t afford an out-of-town vacation, spend a night away at a hotel or bed and breakfast.  Take a day trip to a great state park or water park.
  • Make memories – Be intentional about going to lunch with friends and about having fun with children and/or grandchildren.  Now is the time, because it slips away so quickly.
  • Revive an old hobby – Creativity through writing helps to manage emotions.  Creativity through drawing and painting expresses emotions.  Music is therapeutic in relaxation.

The pandemic took its toll.  If your emotional health is in serious jeopardy, please seek out a good counselor to work through this.  You are valuable, teacher. Your self-care is important to students and parents alike.  Have a blast during this much needed summer break!


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Girl crying on stairs

Domestic Violence and Children

Domestic Violence and Children

 

 

Children are innocent victims of domestic violence in the home. Many children suffer direct abuse from one or both parents or a caregiver. Other children witness violent behavior between parents, whether physical or emotional, on a day-in and day-out basis. The children are the ones who believe lies that they are either the cause of the violence or that they could have stopped the domestic abuse. They suffer without a voice, and the results play out in tell-tale symptoms. The observant and perceptive teacher, caregiver, or grandparent would be wise to assist the child with getting help.

Some of the symptoms that follow instances of domestic violence according to American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry are: anxiety & fear, depression, sleep problems including nightmares and bedwetting, aggression, anger, changes in appetite. These symptoms then escalate in adolescents with drug abuse, skipping school, declining grades, and social withdrawal.

Children of domestic violence tell themselves lies as a result of what they experience. Childhood Domestic Violence Association (CDV) includes a list of the lies children begin to believe with truths they should believe. For instance, the child feels ”worthless” because they feel unimportant, not good enough, a failure. The truth being “accomplished” because they realize what they had to overcome and few other obstacles compare. Another example, “unloved” where the child feels unloved and incapable of giving love. The truth being “loved” because making others feel cared for, appreciated, and important makes them feel the same. For a complete list of these lies with corresponding truths click here.

Hope Rising SEL is an advocate for children. Our program not only provides tools which address some of these above-mentioned behaviors, but also provides a platform that gives children a safe space to share. Children are our future. When a child is misbehaving, most likely the child is not “bad”, but the truth is they may be “crying out” to get help.

 


 

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