Helping students cope with tragedy

Hurricane Sandy has presented another sad reminder that as educators, we sometimes need to help our students cope with catastrophic events. The last thing we need is to search for the right things to say and do in a time of crisis. Knowing what to do can be the difference between stability and upheaval. That’s why NJEA urges you to clip out this list of resources that will help you prepare for these circumstances and allow you to spring into action should tragedy strike.

NEA’s Health Information Network (NEA HIN) offers a 50-page School Crisis Guide that provides to-the-point advice for schools and districts. This step-by-step resource created by educators for educators can make it easier for leaders and school district administrators and principals to keep schools safe — so teachers can teach and children can learn. The guide also suggests ways for state and local associations to lend expertise, saving schools precious time in the midst of a crisis and helping children and staff return to learning. Don’t miss the “Tools and Tip Sheets” page that offers a list of resources that can be found on www.neahin.org. These include Sample Back-to-School Talking Points for Educators and Recovery: How Teachers Can Help.

The website of the National Association of School Psychologists, www.nasponline.org, features a large volume of free materials that can be used to promote the ability of children and youth to cope with traumatic or unsettling events. Categories of resources include:

  • School Safety/Violence Prevention
  • Suicide Prevention/Intervention
  • Crisis Response Resources
  • Media and Crisis
  • Trauma
  • Natural Disasters
  • War/Terrorism Materials
  • Crisis Resources in Spanish and Other Languages.

The U.S. Department of Education has posted a special Hurricane Sandy webpage at www.ed.gov/sandy. While it includes some information specific to this natural disaster, it also features resources that can be helpful in any crisis situation. For example, a list of materials on Restoring the Teaching and Learning Environment includes a link to a four-page guide on Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event. You’ll also find a more comprehensive piece titled Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents in Disasters. Both of these guides were prepared by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

New Jersey’s Division of Mental Health Services within the Department of Human Services has materials available, including brochures on Managing the Emotional Consequences of Storms and Flooding and Coping with the Stress of Emergency Evacuation. You’ll also find resources you can pass along to parents on Helping Children Cope with Disasters and Personal and Family Preparedness. Visit www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dmhs/disaster.

The American Red Cross website features a Plan and Prepare section at www.redcross.org/prepare that breaks the topic down by location (preparing at home, school and workplace) and by type of emergency. It addresses caring for the children, the disabled, the elderly—even pets—and identifies a number of other resources.