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Talking About Traumatic Events

The outpouring of love, prayers and concern when traumatic events happen is notable and yet, students often want to understand more and to do more. We need to meet these desires with support while also knowing these events may lead to a rush to judgment and generalizations. In the desire to understand why and how these things happen, many will ascribe blame, thus becoming vulnerable to focusing on differences in religion and perpetuation of stereotypes rather than focusing on ability to serve as agents of change. It is always important to help students deepen their levels of understanding and the power of their voices and it is even more necessary during times such as these. Some ideas for helping students are:

  • Answering questions in a factual manner while not over informing. Try responding with one sentence and allowing for questions. Continue in this manner until all questions have been answered while offering to be available should more questions arise in the future.

  • Focusing on what students can do such as learning and practicing conflict resolution skills; understanding and appreciate differences and serving as ambassadors for peace.

  • Advocating for social justice.

  • Naming the risk for adding to stereotypes.

  • Knowing the possible dangers of believing in "one story" in history.

  • Serving as change agents in their communities.

  • Listening to their concerns, their questions, their fears and their silence.

  • Encouraging exploration of understandings about other cultures.

  • Giving yourself time, you are not expected to have answers to why such acts occur.

  • Allowing for silence when reflection time is needed.

  • Providing outlets such as journaling.

  • Maintaining routine is important to remind students that while we should pause and reflect we also take care of the matters needing attention.

Most of all, listening to student concerns, questions, fears and reaching out even when they say they do not need to talk by reminding them of your presence and care.

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