How to Talk to Deal with News Disasters

Submitted by Melissa Myers, Associate Head of School

Over the past year or so, I’ve been reading a book called It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. I started out reading it as a parent, and quickly realized that so much of what this book covers--which is a lot of child psychology and child development--is applicable not only to my little guy at home, but also to kids of all ages at school.  It’s a bit of a “rebel parent guide”. After nearly 20 years of working with all kinds of kids (and minds), I’ve come to realize that a bit of my Gen X instinct to question The Man is pretty beneficial in this context. Our students go through so many life challenges, whether it’s homework (this book has a whole chapter dedicated to school, which topics like “Ban elementary homework” and “Opt out of harmful homework”) bullying, or a national crisis. We’re required, as educators, to practice deep listening as well as establishing a thoughtful approach for supporting the whole child.  

In Chapter 15, “Deal with News Disasters”, author Heather Shumaker tells the story of a 3-year-old who innocently plays in the family living room.  He repeatedly crashes an airplane into his Lego skyscraper. She asks the reader, “What does a child need from you when a disaster strikes?” Here’s what she recommends:

You need to be a stable, caring person for your child
You need to offer honest, simple information
You need to be present. Take time to be together
You need to demonstrate kindness and ways to help. 

We’ve seen so much of this from Sterne School parents and teachers over the past few weeks.  Art students made “Kindness Posters” to display in the windows of their homes. These posters thank all our healthcare workers and serve as a reminder that we are in this together, alone.  Parents have been sharing some joy at home with us, too. We’ve read beautiful poetry, watched student videos that are equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking, and have simply swapped parenting stories. We love hearing from you!

I’ll leave you with one final piece of inspiration from It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. The following are some “renegade blessings” that you can bring to “our kids” and to yours:

I can handle fear, even big fear
I can talk to my family about absolutely anything
It isn’t my fault
I feel mixed up. That’s OK; mixed-up feelings are normal
It’s better to deal with conflict directly; I can solve my problems without violence
I wish it hadn’t happened, but it feels good to help people
I can be one of the world’s greatest helpers

I’d like to add one more to this list. It’s one of our Sterne School Core Values: Never give up