A message from Open Circle, the elementary school social emotional learning (SEL) program at the Wellesley Centers for Women:
"In light of the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we are writing to share some resources that school communities might find helpful at this time. This tragedy touches all of us, both near and far, regardless of whether we are educators, parents or students. Open Circle would like to offer its assistance during this difficult time by helping schools support students who, understandably, may have questions or concerns in response to this tragic event.
"Children may need reassurance that their classroom and school are safe places for them. It is important to recognize the needs of individual children who might have a harder time coping with this event than others. Often children who are prone to anxious feelings or those with their own trauma history can be triggered by another traumatic event, even if it did not directly happen to them. In addition to the positive, supportive classroom climate and the social and emotional learning tools that Open Circle provides, some students may need additional time with a school psychologist or guidance counselor to help them manage their fears.
"It is also critical that adults get the support they need to help students with their questions and feelings about this tragic event. Modeling how to stay calm and knowing when to ask for help yourself will help reassure students of their safety and remind them that the adults in school will be there to take care of them.
"During difficult times, safety, consistency and predictability are critical to helping children maintain a sense of stability and psychological comfort. Open Circle provides a classroom routine and climate that is safe, consistent and predictable. Continuing to do Open Circle, as usual, is very important. Revisiting and applying the following skills and concepts may be one way to help students and adults as they deal with this traumatic event.
We recommend the following additional resources from the National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
Open Circle is a universal social emotional learning (SEL) program focused on two goals: strengthening students' SEL skills related to recognizing and managing emotions, developing care and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively; and fostering safe, caring and highly-engaging classroom and school communities.
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Thank you for this timely posting. Even though schools are one of the safest environments, unexplainable tragedies such as this massacre at Newtown, CT create dread in all of us. I appreciate your sharing of your expertise built over many years of working with school children and adults and parents to offer resources.
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I think it's important to remember that children have a limited capacity to deal with trauma. While adults can help to take a part of the burdan and comfort the child, inevitably a part of the experienced will be stored in the child's memory for later. Thus it's important to explain to children already at an early age that they should seek to deal with these traumas later in adult life too. Peace, Joann