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DEALING WITH TRAGEDY
Tips and Resources for Teachers and Parents

To help you cope with the effects of the horrific terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, both as educators and as parents, we have compiled a list of tips and resources focused on helping children through these difficult times.

We also encourage you to read this thoughtful article by Robert Evans, Ed. D., Helping Children Cope with Tragic Loss, and to share your own tips with other teachers and parents at our Discussion Board.

Tips for Teachers
Tips for Parents
Resources
Lesson Plans



Tips for Teachers

The recent tragic events are not easy to discuss with students, no matter what grade they may be in. We offer the following suggestions:


  • Listen carefully and be honest. Talk openly with your students about the tragic events with clear, age-appropriate information.

  • Avoid rumors and misconceptions. First talk with other teachers in the school and your principal about what factual information to provide.

  • Give your students the opportunity to gently face the reality of what has occurred. Include plenty of time during the day for class discussions in which the children can express their emotions and ask questions.

  • Assure the students that their feelings are normal. Admit when you don't have specific answers, and share your own feelings with them, even if your feelings are difficult.

  • Comfort your students. Emphasize that they should not be afraid to share how they feel and to cry if they want or need to.

  • Stick to a normal school day routine. Routines can provide a sense of comfort for students who feel that their lives and emotions are out of control.

  • Before they return to school, ask students who have suffered personal losses if they would like to discuss the death of their loved ones with the class. Set the tone for the discussion by explaining to the other students how they can support their grieving classmates by listening and being there for them.

  • Incorporate activities that allow your class to process their feelings. Ask your students to write condolence letters or cards to the victims' families, and thank-you cards to the heroic men and women who rescued people. Point out all the stories of heroism and generosity.

  • Encourage your students to express their feelings Through Art. This may help them express thoughts they are unable to articulate. Provide opportunities for your students to work together on a class project, like a memorial Web site, to express and display the emotions they share.

  • Create an educational forum. Set up forums and discussion groups to discuss the attacks, and give students a chance to express their views. If possible, include or invite members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities to speak, too. Invite your social studies students to consider other ways of achieving peace and justice. Reaffirm the inherent value of all human life.

Information on this list has been compiled from the Web sites of The National Education Association, National Association of School Psychologists, and www.tolerance.org.

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Tips for Parents

It is not easy talking to children about tragic events. We offer the following suggestions to help you help your children cope with the trauma inflicted by the recent tragedy:


  • Reassure children that they are safe. Explain to them that there are good, competent people in charge who are working to keep us all safe.

  • Point out good deeds that have come out of this tragedy. Focus on stories of heroism and generosity to help children fortify their belief in humanity.

  • Explain that feeling upset is normal. Communicate to your children that being sad or crying about these events is ok.

  • Talk about the tragedy with children old enough to understand recent events. Tell your children the truth, but make sure that your explanations are age-appropriate. Younger children will need brief information (only if they are aware of the tragedy and are asking questions) combined with reassurances of safety and love. Older children will be able to ask more involved questions and may need more detailed reassurances about why they are safe. Give children the answers to their questions and try to avoid speculation. Be a good listener and ask your children why they are asking the questions they are asking, to get to the root of their anxiety.

  • Try to keep your routine. This fosters feelings of safety and stability.

  • Encourage young children to express their feelings through art. This may help them express thoughts they are unable to articulate.

  • Stay calm. Children take cues from your behavior. It is ok to show that you are upset, but avoid expressing strong feelings of anger, fear, or hopelessness.

  • Try to spend more time with your children. Tell them that you love them and engage them with quiet, calming activities.

  • Limit exposure to the media. Avoid "staying glued" to the television. Instead, watch for a brief time and then talk about what you are seeing.

  • Don't punish children for reverting to behaviors from an earlier age, e.g., bed-wetting. Instead, encourage them to verbalize the feelings behind their actions. These behaviors will subside over time.

  • Be familiar with signs of trauma and monitor your child's behavior in the upcoming weeks. Be in touch with teachers and caregivers to ask about your child's behavior.

  • Take care of yourself. Your children take cues from your words and actions, and you will need to take care of your own needs in order to stay calm and strong for your children. Seek out community resources to find the support you need.

This list of tips has been compiled using information from the Web sites of the following organizations: The American Counseling Association, The National Association of School Psychologists, and The Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA).

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Resources

Dear Parents and Educators,

The following is a list of resources that offer advice and guidance to help you manage trauma from the September 11th terrorist attacks on our city and our country, both at home and in the classroom. Three newly added resources are listed first, with the rest following in alphabetical order.

(p) = resource for parents
(t) = resource for teachers

Tragic Times, Healing Words (p)
Offered by Sesame Workshop
http://www.thirteen.org/teach/healing.pdf
It's never easy to know what to say to children after a crisis. In collaboration with child psychologists, Sesame Workshop has developed some suggestions on talking to your children about the recent tragedy. These suggestions are not intended for children who suffered a family loss due to the September 11th tragedy. The document is in pdf format, so you will need Adobe Acrobat to read and print it. Click here to get the Adobe Acrobat reader.

Reactions and Guidelines for Children Following Trauma/disaster (p) (t)
http://www.apa.org/practice/ptguidelines.html
The American Psychological Association offers lists of possible reactions to trauma in elementary, middle, and high school students, and guidelines for teachers and parents on how to help. Other areas on the site provide resources for finding appropriate professional help.

Helping Children Cope with Loss (p) (t)
http://www.nmha.org/reassurance/childcoping.cfm
The National Mental Health Association, the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health, has several resources available to help you help your children cope with the disaster. This list contains some common ways children might respond to a death, and tips for helping children and adolescents grieve.

The American Counseling Association (p)
Crisis Fact Sheet: Helping Children Cope with Trauma
http://www.counseling.org/consumers_media/facts_childtrauma.htm Founded in 1952, the American Counseling Association is the world's largest private, non-profit organization for professional counselors. This page from the American Counseling Association Web site contains a list of strategies for helping children deal with trauma.

America Responds: PBS Classroom Resources (t)
http://www.pbs.org/americaresponds/educators.html
Lesson plans that educators can use to address issues raised by global events that affect America.

The ChildTrauma Academy (p) (t)
http://www.childtrauma.org/
Here you will find a series of articles to help caregivers, teachers, and parents better understand some of the effects of exposure to trauma on children. The Academy has worked with hundreds of children and their families shattered by traumatic experiences over the last 15 years.

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) (p) (t)
http://www.coloradocrimevictims.org/documents/Trauma_Tips%20_English_pdf.pdf
The Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) addresses the needs of victims through support and education for individuals and communities. This site, informed by the tragic events at Columbine High School, offers advice for teachers, parents, and students coping with trauma.

Coping With Crisis (p) (t)
http://www.co-nect.net/resources.shtml
In the aftermath of this national tragedy, people are struggling to make sense of it all. Many experts believe that putting thoughts into words can be helpful in the healing process. This Web site invites students from around the world to send in their writing and reflections on these terrible events. While this resources page is available to everyone, other areas of the site require registration.

Education Week (t)
Schools and Crisis: Selected Resources
http://www.edweek.org/ew/newstory.cfm?slug=03resources.h21
Education Week has compiled a list of Web sites, articles, and other resources to help educators coping with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

How to Recover Technologically (t)
http://www.thirteen.org/teach/Flyer.pdf
NPower NY, an organization that puts technology know-how in the hands of Non-Profits, has created this flyer to assist those affected technologically by the World Trade Center disaster. Please take a moment to review the flyer to find out how you can restore and protect your school computers. Also, feel free to make copies of the flyer and pass it along to whomever you feel it may assist. The flyer is in pdf format, so you will need Adobe Acrobat to read and print it. Click here to get the Adobe Acrobat reader.

Kids Cope by Sharing Hope (t)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KidsShareHope
Participants of the Global Schoolhouse, http://www.globalschoolnet.org/, and youth from around the world, including Ireland and Uzbekistan, are using this space to express their support, hope, and condolences through writing and art. You can take advantage of the Kids Cope by Sharing Hope site to encourage students to express their feelings. This site requires registration.

National Association of School Psychologists (p) (t)
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope
Tips for Parents and Teachers
http://www.nasponline.org/NEAT/terrorism.html
The National Association of School Psychologists promotes healthy environments for all youth. This handout offers tips for teachers and parents dealing with children's reactions to trauma.

The National Education Association (t)
http://www.nea.org/01crisis.html
Founded in 1857, the NEA is America's oldest and largest organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. This site contains resources on everything from how a child conceives of death to how to manage post-traumatic stress disorder. The site also features a comprehensive Crisis Communications Toolkit for educators, which offers day-by-day advice on how to deal with the aftermath of a crisis: http://www.nea.org/crisis/.

Oxygen.com: Talking to Kids about Tragedy (p)
http://oxygen.com/topic/family/fammtrs/talkingtokids_20010913.html
Dr. Ron Taffel, a child and family psychologist and author, answers parents' questions about their children's reactions to the recent tragedies.

PBS KIDS: Resources for Parents (p)
http://www.pbs.org/americaresponds/parents.html
PBS KIDS has organized a list of useful resources with suggested activities for parents and children.

Red Cross: Helping Young Children Cope with Trauma (p) (t)
http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/keepsafe/childtrauma.html
Part of the Red Cross' Disaster Counseling Materials, these strategies address children's needs after exposure to traumatic events. The site also offers a characterization of the reactions of different age groups.

Sesame Street Parents: Tragic Times, Healing Words (p)
http://www.sesameworkshop.org/parents/advice/article/0,4125,49560,00.html
This site contains advice developed by Sesame Street Research with the assistance of child psychologists Dr. Joanne Joseph, Dr. Lawrence Balter, Dr. Charles Flatter, family therapist Meri Wallace and writer Josh Daniel. Find suggestions on how to help children manage the trauma from the recent tragedy, as well as advice on what to do when your child says "I'm scared."

Thirteen Help Center (p) (t)
http://www.thirteen.org/helpcenter.html#info
Visit the Thirteen Help Center for a comprehensive list of hotlines and important information on missing persons, donations, counseling, transportation, and more.

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Lesson Plans

These lesson plans have been selected for their relevance to issues raised by the September 11 terrorist attacks in our country.

How Media Shapes Perception (Grades 10-12)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/media/index.html
This language arts lesson will help your 10th to 12th grade students understand the impact that media messages can have in shaping reactions to tragic events conveyed in the news.

Dealing with Tragedy in the Classroom (Grades 1-5)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/tragedy/index.html
This lesson will help your 1st to 5th grade students cope with loss and learn how to talk to each other about their feelings. Your students will write letters to children of lost victims and learn about ways they can volunteer.

Changing Perspectives on the Japanese Internment Experience (Grades 9-12)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/internment/index.html
Use this lesson plan to make students aware of the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and the danger of singling out ethnic or religious groups as the "enemy."

Paul Robeson: 20th-Century Renaissance Man, Hero In Any Century (Grades 7-12)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/robeson/index.html
In this lesson, students explore the theme of heroism and interview local heroes in their community. Use this lesson to focus students on the positive examples of human behavior we have seen since September 11.

I Have a Metaphor (Grades 5-9)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/mlk/index.html
In this lesson, students use Dr. Martin Luther King's message of unity regardless of race and religion. Use this lesson as a timely reminder that hatred toward anyone on the basis of race or religion is unacceptable.

Who Am I? Exploring Identity (Grades 9-12)
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/lessons/whoami/index.html
Child experts note that in times of turmoil, children may feel that their lives are out of control and question the security of the world around them. Use this lesson to remind them of who they are and why they are important.

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