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Tips for Communicating with Students During an Emergency

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, everyone in education faces a great challenge: helping our children feel safe and secure. If you are an educator, whether your school is public, private, parochial, charter or home school, you must offer your students your undivided attention and support.

If You Are a Principal, Here Are Some Things to Consider Doing at Your School:

  • Evaluate the counseling resources you have on campus and consider what services and assistance may be available in your community. If you need help with counseling your students, faith-based and community organizations can help.
  • Meet with the faculty of your school as a group and individually. Many of your teachers and faculty are feeling stress and anxiety, and your leadership can help to comfort them and build a strong sense of camaraderie that will assist them in meeting the needs of their students.
  • When you meet with teachers, encourage them to listen to the questions and concerns of their students, and to answer their questions honestly with age-appropriate facts. Remind them that we can overwhelm young children with too much information.
  • Share suggestions with your faculty about how to discuss the event with the students in their classrooms, and how to look for signs of distress or special needs among their students so they know where to direct extra help.
  • Spend time walking through your building and visiting classrooms. This leadership activity strongly reduces anxiety of both your teachers and your students.

Teachers May Want to Consider the Following Suggestions:

  • Listen to your students and watch their behavior. Sometimes the quietest child may be the most frightened. Some children may daydream or have trouble concentrating on their schoolwork. Some may act out. Others may be just fine.
  • Take the time to reassure your students that their homes and schools are safe places. Show them that their school is functioning normally, and tell them that their government is working and that it will continue to protect them.
  • Help students discuss the known facts and separate fact from rumor. Avoid speculating or exaggerating graphic details. Try not to be an alarmist.
  • Maintain structure and stability through the daily schedule and engage in classroom activities that do not focus on the event. Children are comforted by their normal routine and “back-to-normal” activities will help them.
  • Remember that the images on television are frightening, even to adults. Reduce or eliminate the presence of television in the classroom.
  • Encourage your students to participate in constructive activities relative to the tragedy. They can write notes to those in need or mourning, or write about acts of courage or bravery. Give them the opportunity to come up with ideas about how they can help those in need.


For more information visit the U.S. Department of Education.

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