Supporting Your Child During Upsetting Events

Dear St. John Families,

In light of yesterday’s events in D.C. and as we all navigate these stressful and unsettling times, I wanted to share some tips and resources for supporting your child. I hope you find the information below helpful and please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need some additional support. My email is cshaw@st-johnschool.org and my (virtual) door is always open. 🙂

Let’s remember that we’re all in this together and as our school theme so perfectly captures this year, “Together We Can: Act with Justice, Love with Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God.”

Warmly,

Ms. Shaw

Tips for Supporting Your Child During Upsetting Events

  1. Follow your child’s lead and listen, understand, and validate their experiences.
      • Your child may be feeling a range of emotions—from fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness, to confusion or helplessness. Alternatively, they may not even be aware of or concerned by what is going on and that is completely fine, too. Your child’s feelings will depend on what they know as well as their age. My number one piece of advice is to follow your child’s lead.
      • If your child is indicating that they want to talk about what’s going on, it’s important to listen, understand, and validate their feelings and experience. Here’s just one example of what you might say to validate them: “It’s okay to be feeling that way right now. That’s a normal response to have when something unsettling is happening.”
      • If your child doesn’t bring these topics up to, that is perfectly ok, too. Younger children in particular may not know what is going on and you can help guard their childhood by limiting exposure to unsettling news and maintaining your normal routine.
      • Finally, I want to note that it’s important to avoid over-emphasizing feelings of fear or worry, as doing so can intensify these feelings. After you’ve done the listening, understanding, and validating, direct the conversation elsewhere to more hopeful and healthy topics (see tips 2 and 3 for ideas).
  2. Help your child focus on what they can control.
      • It can be very easy to get sucked into closely monitoring the news developments right now and begin to feel a sense of helplessness and as though the world is out of control. This is not a particularly useful place to be—especially for our kids. Instead, set limits on news consumption and encourage your child to focus on things in their life that they (and your family) can control. For instance, you can encourage them to make choices about what they want to do with their free time, what your family cooks for dinner, or what movie you watch together. For older children, you can remind them that they are in control of what they choose to think about, engage with, and look at. If the news is upsetting to them, they have the power to put away their phone and do something else.
  3. Look for the helpers.
      • Remind your child of the many adults in their lives and in this country who care deeply about them. Talk about and tell stories of the helpers and people doing good now, and in the past. This emphasis on the positive is comforting and reassuring to kids.

Additional Resources

  • The National Education Association has great tips that address how to talk to kids about the attack on the Capitol, with specific developmental considerations.
  • The Child Mind Institute also has some helpful recommendations on helping kids understand these events depending on their age.
  • Common Sense Media has some excellent suggestions for talking to kids about the violence at the Capitol, including questions to ask depending on your child’s age. They also have more general recommendations on how to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war that are helpful, too.
  • For younger students who need some help with making sense of the upsetting news headlines and images they’re seeing, I recommend Arthur Family Health. Using the children’s TV character, Arthur, PBS Kids put together a fantastic site that includes tips for kids and grown ups for when something upsetting happens in our world, as well as activities for kids to process their feelings.
  • As a family, consider listening to this read aloud of the story, “The Breaking News,” which does a nice job helping kids process scary news headlines while also talking about things they can do to feel better amid these upsetting times.
  • The National Associational of School Psychologists released a resource document with tips for parents on supporting students in the context of the 2020 election.

Newsletter – January 2021

January 2021 School Counselor Newsletter

Dear St. John Families,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a joyful and restful winter break and are feeling energized as we return to school. Now that we’re back at school, I’m very excited to begin my second trimester social-emotional learning (SEL) groups.

SEL groups are one of my key interventions to support students in kindergarten through fifth grade who need extra help with a particular social or emotional skill (e.g., emotional regulation, anxiety, coping skills, friendship, etc.) Groups are formed with 3-5 same-grade peers and meet for 30-minutes a week during the school day for 6-8 consecutive weeks.

If you believe that your child needs some additional social or emotional support and would like them to be considered for a group, please fill out this online form. The deadline to refer your child for the upcoming round of groups is Friday, January 15th.

Please note: I cannot guarantee a space for every student who is referred to my groups. However, I make every effort to get each student who is referred to me into a group rotation at some point during the school year. In the coming weeks, I will work with teachers to determine who will be in the upcoming round of groups, prioritizing students who need immediate support and those who were not able to participate in the first trimester.

 In addition to my SEL groups, I continue to offer the following supports for all of our students: 

      • Google Classroom (K-5th Grade): The theme in my classroom this month is Friendship. All of the lessons and activities this month address things we can do to make and keep friends. Please contact me if your child is not in my classroom and you would like for them to be added.
      • Virtual Calming Room (Middle School): Students are invited to check out my Virtual Calming Room. This site has many resources to support positive mental health, including: guided meditations and breathing videos, journaling prompts, yoga videos, and more.
      • 1-on-1 Counseling (All students): I’m available to work with students as requested on a goal-oriented, short-term basis. Please email me to arrange this service.

If I can do anything at all to support your child or family, please contact me via email at cshaw@st-johnschool.org. I work with students and families throughout the week and would be more than happy to do anything I can to support you!

Warmly,

Ms. Shaw

Resources I’m Highlighting this Month

  • Looking for tangible advice on things you can do to support your teen’s mental health? Check out this article, Listen and Connect: How Parents Can Support Teens’ Mental Health Right Now. If you’re hungry for more strategies to support and connect with your teen, Space Between is offering a free workshop on March 2nd called, Get Centered: Strategies for Supporting and Connecting with Your Teen.
  • Great Conversations is an excellent local organization that offers classes and presentations for preteens and parents on subjects such as puberty, sexuality, and other topics relevant to children during these pivotal years. They have three upcoming talks for parents, as well as two programs for children ages 9-12 called Body Talk and The Chat. All of these programs have sessions beginning later this month and tend to fill up quickly due to their popularity.
  • As a school counselor, one of my biggest roles is teaching kids coping skills for how to calm down. There are so many different strategies that we can use to help regulate our feelings and it’s important to keep in mind that not all strategies work for all kids. That’s where this great Coping Skills Quick Guide comes in! This guide has tons of excellent ideas and breaks coping skills into six different categories. I invite you to check it out and help your child try something new!
  • Aspiring Youth is a fantastic local organization that offers social skills groups for children ages 8-18. With COVID limiting social opportunities, your child may be yearning for more social time. I’d highly encourage you to take a look at their winter group offerings. All of their groups are virtual and they have a great variety, from a Girls Group and Arts and Movement Group, to a Roblox Group and PokĂ©mon Group, among others!