Discussing Recent Tragedies With Young Students: Tips for Teachers

When heartbreaking events occur around the world, children are often affected more than they may outwardly show. Although tragedies, like mass shootings or natural disasters, are a difficult topic of discussion, it is important to maintain open communication with young students—to help them navigate their complex emotions, and to create a harmonious environment, where children can feel safe and at ease.

How Do You Address Sensitive Issues in Class?

Harmony SEL activities can be incorporated into daily lessons to teach students the importance of understanding and appreciating diversity. Use these strategies routinely, and particularly in response to traumatic events, to foster a strong classroom community, and to give students a platform to discuss their feelings. Here are a few Harmony SEL methods that you can employ:

Feelings Detectives: Tape several signs around the room, each with a different feeling written on it—happy, sad, scared, worried, angry, excited, proudThen, describe different scenarios (e.g., riding on a roller coaster, or a recent tragedy). Students move to stand under the sign that represents their emotions about said situation. Lead a class discussion, pointing out differences/similarities in the ways children feel about certain events.

Commonalities: Children find out things they have in common, even with diverse peers. As a group, discuss how we can all be alike in certain ways, yet different in some ways, and that’s okay.

Building Community: Children work together to create a classroom banner. The banner will include pictures and words that describe students as individuals, and the class as a whole. Students learn that everyone is an important part of the class. Everyone signs the banner, and it is displayed proudly in the classroom.

You can explore more Harmony SEL strategies, designed to give students the social-emotional support they need when exposed to senseless, devastating situations so prevalent in the news and on social media.