Archive for the ‘Dealing With Tragedy’ Category

Speaking to Children About the Australian Bushfires

January 12, 2020

 

It has been so difficult to watch the carnage at the hands of the bushfires in my country, Australia.

What has offset some of the pain and devastation has been the outpouring of goodwill from regular Australians as well as prominent figures both locally and overseas. No greater than Shane Warne, a local cricketing hero who has auctioned off his prized “baggy green” representative cricket hat for the bushfire appeal. The hat raised over 1 million dollars and will make a significant difference to those affected.

I don’t have a million dollars to give, but I am looking forward to donating all the royalties for my book sales during the month of January. I may even extend it to February to maximise my donation.

One of the difficult aspects of this story is how the crises is affecting children. An event of this magnitude poses many challenges for parents as they try to ensure that their children don’t become too anxious or depressed over it.

Samantha Dick from the New Daily wrote a brilliant article on this very topic, which included the following tips for parents and teachers:

 

1. Let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay

Listen to your children’s concerns and respond from a position of strength.

E.g. “I can hear how worried you are. What’s happening is scary, but you are safe. There are so many people who feel exactly the way you do. You aren’t alone – I promise.”

2. Reassure your children

Let them know there are lots of people like firefighters working hard to keep them safe.

If they see emergency services personnel or hear sirens, reassure them that these experts are very skilled at what they do.

3. Help your children know they, and others, won’t be alone

Disasters are a time when communities come together.

Remind them that people who have lost their homes or have been hurt in the fires will be looked after.

Talk to them about the charities and organisations like Foodbank Australia and Red Cross providing support.

Remind them of the good in the world.

4. What if this happens to us?

Traumatic events can make children very aware of their own vulnerability. They will usually look to the close adults in their lives for signs of safety.

E.g. “Every time something like this happens, we learn how to stay safer. We learn how things like this happen, so we can stop it happening again.”

5. Keep up to date with weather and warnings

Talk to your children about weather warnings and fire ratings, especially for total fire ban days, and explain why some activities like cooking sausages on barbecues are prohibited at these times.

6. Make sure your children know vital information

Make sure they can recite their full name and address, emergency contact numbers and any allergies or medical conditions they have.

Check they know to call Triple Zero in an emergency and practice what they need to say.

Practice your fire plan with them.

7. Help them find ways to help

Encourage your children to find ways to help others in their community.

Explain how their own acts of kindness will help alleviate their own feelings of despair and helplessness.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Discussing the New Zealand Volcano Tragedy with Children

December 11, 2019

How on earth do you explain the tragedy that took place in Paris to young children?

Below are some tips by experts in the field that can be used to assist in facilitating discussions about the recent New Zealand volcano tragedy:

 

Watch for Trauma: “Young children may have difficulties identifying and expressing feelings. Parents should pay attention to the children’s play (for instance, preoccupation with certain aggressive electronic games, drawings, repetitive play that imitates the traumatic event or events). Another sign of trauma is avoidance of reminders.” — Dr. Aurelia Bizamcer, Medical Director, Outpatient Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital

Keep Answers Truthful but Simple: “We’re not holding back, but we’re not giving more because the giving more could have the risk of alarming the child. … As a parent you have an obligation to protect a young child from being overwhelmed.” –Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University; Director of the Yale Parenting Center.

Reassure Them: “We need to appreciate that kids have different fears. Many will worry about the movies, but others will worry about such events spilling over to other areas, such as the mall, school, the neighborhood. For kids of all ages, it is really important to let them know that these kinds of events are incredibly rare. ” –Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital

Keep Answers Age-Appropriate: “Parents should be sure to pitch the discussion to their kids’ developmental level. For a 6-year-old, it’s completely appropriate to reassure them of their safety, with some emphasis on the fact that this person is no longer at large. For kids over the age of 8, more concrete details are appropriate, along with, perhaps, a general discussion of how to be safe in public — locating exit doors for instance, and getting to safety in the event of any dangerous occurrence.” –Jay Reeve,President and Chief Executive Officer, Apalachee Center

Don’t Make Assumptions: “Don’t project your own feelings, fears and anxiety on kids because you know you don’t really know exactly what your kids are feeling until you talk to them.” –Dr. Jane Taylor, psychiatrist

 

Michael Grossman is the author of the hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian. You can download a free ebook copy by clicking here or buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Explaining Hawaii to Young Children

January 14, 2018

 

Twitter is awash with jokes about Hawaii and the missile false alarm.

One can understand why. When a person tries to regroup from a near trauma, they go to comedy to help them manage the shock.

But there is one section of the population that wont want to make light of this episode – young children. The kind that I teach in Primary school.

They wont get the humor and will be perplexed (and often wounded) by the story if it isn’t explained in a discrete and careful manner. The worst thing in the world a parent could do is make light of it or laugh it off. That wont work for children.

The best way to deal with it is to explain that sometimes adults believe things that make no sense. That a missile is never going to hit Hawaii and adults were so surprised by the message that they lost all common sense.

But isn’t that lying?

I feel that this white lie is imperative. Children must have it reinforced that their homes are not going to be pelted with missiles. Not now. Not ever.

Jokes will enable adults to move on.

I worry about the children.

 

Click on the link to read The Death of a Student

Click on the link to read Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

Click on the link to read Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

The Death of a Student

April 18, 2017

 

I suppose it happens to nearly all teachers at some point and tonight it has happened to me.

At approximately 7pm I got an email to notify me that a student I had taught 2 years ago had passed away.

I am grief stricken. He was only 12 years old!

Words fail me. I had a great connection with this child. I felt I understood him like no other teacher.

And now he’s gone and it will take me a while to get over it.

They tell you not to get emotionally involved but it is absolutely impossible.

Especially with students like him.

Rest in Peace!

 

Click on the link to read Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

Click on the link to read Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

The Overwhelming Job of Paris’ Teachers

November 16, 2015

Children and adults lay flowers and light candles at a shift memorial along a police cordon set-up close to the Bataclan concert hall on November 15, 2015 in Paris, following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris on November 13. Islamic State jihadists claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium.  AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA        (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

As much as we hope that parents will take a lead role in comforting fragile French kids in the aftermath of the Paris tragedy, you can bet much will be left to their school teachers.

Nothing prepares you for the kind of discussions these teachers will be asked to moderate and it’s an unenviable position they have in restoring calmness and clarity to fearful children:

 

On Jan. 7, 2015, there was suffocating alarm, horror and fear in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The next day, wounds still fresh, it was necessary to keep going. It was a difficult day for schoolteachers in France, faced with students and their questions, and at times their anger.

On Monday, Nov. 16, there will be a similar challenge.

HuffPost France asked teachers and school principals about their expectations for the first school week after Friday’s Paris attacks and the messages they hoped to send to the students.

“This Monday, I’ll start my day with a 12th-grade literature class. It’s a class that I’m close to, especially since I already lived through the attacks of last January with them,” said Marie-Sandrine, a high school teacher. “I end my morning with a 10th-grade class that lasts till 12:20 p.m.”

On Sunday, the teacher noticed that discussions were already underway in online teachers’ forums, on social networks and over the phone. “The atmosphere is very different from the day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo,” she said. “In her address, the minister of education thanked us for our professionalism. She has given us resources to tackle the topic in class. From now on, it will be important to talk about a ‘minute of contemplation’ rather than a ‘minute of silence.'”

Marie-Sandrine said that she’s received emails and messages from students and former students, asking if she is safe and well. “They needed to be comforted,” she said.

“On Monday, I’m going to try to welcome their thoughts with an open mind. ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ That’s how I’ll start. I’m not afraid of their hostile reactions because unlike January, I know that nobody can say, ‘They were asking for it.’ I’m more afraid of the state of panic, of fear, or an absence of lightness. Some students who got in contact with me have told me, ‘Miss, I’m scared.'”

“Teenagers aren’t conscious of the fact that they could die. They don’t think about it like adults do. I’ll tell them that death is part of life,” she said. “I’d also like to teach them how to tell the difference between news and rumors. Finally, I’d like to encourage them to think about how we can take care of each other. If all of that is too heavy, we’ll stop, and I’ll have them listen to the song ‘My France’ by Jean Ferrat, and then we’ll go on with class.”

 

 

Click on the link to read Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

Click on the link to read Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

November 15, 2015

france-terror

 

How on earth do you explain the tragedy that took place in Paris to young children?

Below are some tips by experts in the field I used for the Colorado shooting, but they are just as apt in this instance:

 

Watch for Trauma: “Young children may have difficulties identifying and expressing feelings. Parents should pay attention to the children’s play (for instance, preoccupation with certain aggressive electronic games, drawings, repetitive play that imitates the traumatic event or events). Another sign of trauma is avoidance of reminders.” — Dr. Aurelia Bizamcer, Medical Director, Outpatient Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital

Keep Answers Truthful but Simple: “We’re not holding back, but we’re not giving more because the giving more could have the risk of alarming the child. … As a parent you have an obligation to protect a young child from being overwhelmed.” –Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University; Director of the Yale Parenting Center.

Reassure Them: “We need to appreciate that kids have different fears. Many will worry about the movies, but others will worry about such events spilling over to other areas, such as the mall, school, the neighborhood. For kids of all ages, it is really important to let them know that these kinds of events are incredibly rare. ” –Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital

Keep Answers Age-Appropriate: “Parents should be sure to pitch the discussion to their kids’ developmental level. For a 6-year-old, it’s completely appropriate to reassure them of their safety, with some emphasis on the fact that this person is no longer at large. For kids over the age of 8, more concrete details are appropriate, along with, perhaps, a general discussion of how to be safe in public — locating exit doors for instance, and getting to safety in the event of any dangerous occurrence.” –Jay Reeve,President and Chief Executive Officer, Apalachee Center

Don’t Make Assumptions: “Don’t project your own feelings, fears and anxiety on kids because you know you don’t really know exactly what your kids are feeling until you talk to them.” –Dr. Jane Taylor, psychiatrist

 

Click on the link to read Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Click on the link to read Advice for Talking With Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Attack

Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

September 30, 2014

 

Five-year-old Hannah Higgins has been through so much, yet has such strength of character. This short video will have a profoundly positive impact on terrified children about to go through the same ordeal.

 

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Click on the link to read Advice for Talking With Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Attack

Click on the link to read 6 Messages For Children After a Tragedy

Click on the link to read A Teacher’s Guide to Talking to Students About the Newtown School Shooting

Guess What This Map Represents

June 12, 2014

 

shoot

This map which looks like a bad case of chicken pox unfortunately represents the 74 school shootings in the U.S since Newtown:

 

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, President Obama promised “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.” His gun reform push, focused on a background check measure that had overwhelming public support, failed in the Senate last year, and Congress hasn’t passed any other gun legislation.

At least 74 school shootings happened during those 18 months, according to a tally by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to pass gun control laws. That’s more than one each week school was in session, with the longest gap between shootings spanning last summer’s break, from mid-June to mid-August.

The most recent shooting happened Tuesday morning at a high school east of Portland, Oregon. The gunman and a student are reported dead.

 

 

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Click on the link to read Advice for Talking With Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Attack

Click on the link to read 6 Messages For Children After a Tragedy

Click on the link to read A Teacher’s Guide to Talking to Students About the Newtown School Shooting

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

11-Year-Old Writes Bucket List for her Terminally ill Mother

May 30, 2013

 

mel

As part of the standardised testing this year, students were asked to nominate a person for a hypothetical “Hero Prize” and give reasons for their selection. 50% of the students at my school nominated their mother (interestingly, none nominated their father). The impact a mother has on a child is unquantifiable and the heroism many mothers face at a time when finding the right work/home balance is as tricky as ever, should not go unnoticed.

The bucket list compiled by a an 11-year-old, charting the list of activities she would like to do with her mother while she is still well enough, strikes at the heart of how unimaginably hard it would be for a child to lose a parent, especially a mother.

bucket

To donate to the fund, visit Kate’s Bucket List on Facebook.

Click on the link to read Tips For Parents of Kids Who “Hate School”

Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

May 21, 2013

tornado

My thoughts and wishes go out to all those effected by the recent Oklahoma tornado.

US President Barack Obama declared a “major disaster” as rescuers combed through smashed homes and the collapsed remains of an elementary school in Moore, where twister-seasoned residents were shocked by the devastation.

The dead included at least 20 children, most of them under the age of 12, Amy Elliott, of the state medical examiner’s office, told AFP.

Reporters for local broadcaster KFOR-TV saw children as young as nine being pulled out of the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, a residential community of 55,000 just south of Oklahoma’s state capital.

Anxious parents were being kept at a distance while search-and-rescue workers scrambled to free the students.

A second elementary school, Briarwood, was also hit but did not appear to have suffered casualties.

tornado2

Click on the link to read Advice for Talking With Your Kids About the Boston Marathon Attack

Click on the link to read 6 Messages For Children After a Tragedy

Click on the link to read A Teacher’s Guide to Talking to Students About the Newtown School Shooting

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Cope in the Aftermath of Sandy

Click here to read ‘Helping Our Children Make Sense of Natural Disasters’.


%d bloggers like this: