“The Maine Education Association and the Lewiston Education Association express profound sorrow for the lives lost, and we stand united during this challenging moment, extending our heartfelt sympathy and thoughts of recovery to the victims, their families, and the entire Lewiston community. We are committed to collaborating to provide the necessary emotional and physical support for students and educators as they begin the healing process,” stated Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association.
As educators, the members of the MEA understand talking to children about such a difficult topic can be challenging. There are developmental appropriate things to say, keeping in mind all children are not able to handle the realities of the entire situation.
As families and educators try to work through their emotions, the MEA offers the following information to help adults have those conversations with your children and your students:
- Be Available and Patient: Take the time to listen and be available for your students. Let their questions be your guide in determining how much information to provide. Understand that children and youth may not always express their feelings verbally. Look for subtle cues, such as their presence while you engage in daily tasks.
- Developmentally Appropriate Explanations: Recognize the varying needs of different age groups. For early elementary school children, offer brief, simple information balanced with reassurances of their safety. Mention concrete safety measures like locked doors, playground monitoring, and emergency drills.
- Engage in Honest Discussions: Upper elementary and early middle school students may be more vocal in seeking information. Assist them in distinguishing between reality and fantasy and discuss the efforts of school and community leaders in providing safety.
- Empower High School Students: High school students often have strong opinions and ideas about safety and violence. Emphasize their role in maintaining safe schools by following guidelines, reporting concerns, and accessing emotional support.
- Observe Emotional States: Watch for changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns as signs of anxiety or discomfort. Seek professional help promptly for children at risk of severe reactions.
- Limit Media Exposure: Encourage healthy media consumption. Monitor what students view online and guide them away from developmentally inappropriate content. Be mindful of conversations and comments that may be misunderstood by children.
- Maintain Routine: Promote a sense of security by adhering to a regular schedule. Encourage adequate sleep, balanced meals, and physical activity. Support students in their schoolwork and extracurricular activities without overwhelming them.
“Proving support for our families and students during this difficult time is crucial, but also infuriating. The MEA hopes there is a time soon where we can attend a parent-teacher conference to learn how to support our children without being told to shelter in place,” added Leavitt.