Most of us are unprepared to deal with a tragedy. Tragic events are simply unthinkable, unpredictable, and can happen to anyone at any time. It could be a school or community violence situation, or the loss of life for any reason. Starting a conversation about such events isn’t easy for anyone at any age. Here are some ways you can be prepared to help students cope if a tragedy strikes.
1. Set the tone
Your body language can set the tone throughout the discussion. Students will easily detect anxiety and other social cues and may model their own behavior accordingly. Similarly, expressing feelings and emotions may also make them feel more comfortable sharing.
2. Openly talk about the situation
Students could potentially learn about tragedies from their peers, overhearing adults, or directly from other communication sources – including social media. Avoiding the topic may make a child more afraid or unwilling to talk about difficult subjects, or expressing their own emotions.
3. Stick to the facts
When processing an unimaginable tragedy, it’s natural to need a lot of detail and explanation. It’s likely you won’t have many answers, but focusing on the known facts, and avoiding personal opinions and unnecessary details will help the process of processing. Be honest and straightforward about the events that occurred.
4. Active listening
Some of the kids may already know about a tragedy, but they may not have all the facts correct. Listen closely and clear up any misunderstandings or distortions, and listen for any underlying concerns they may be feeling.
5. Reassure safety
It’s paramount that a child feels safe and prepared in their school environment. Review safety protocols such as evacuation drills, lockdown drills, and other school policies in place.