Memorial Day, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, was created to “honor those who have died in all American wars“. In that same document, “In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.”
From a USA Today article titled “Why do we observe Memorial Day? Here’s the true history of the holiday” here is a plaque regarding the first Memorial Day:
District Deeds truly honors and remembers the sacrifices of those who have passed away defending the United States and the families they have left behind.
In our District Deeds Sunday Reads post last year we expanded the meaning to “Remembering and Honoring Our Military and Those We Have Lost During the Covid 19 Pandemic“.
Sadly, this year, due to recent events, we have been compelled to add victims of school shootings to our list of those to honor and remember. According to our featured articles today from KQED, in 2022 “the U.S. has already seen 27 school shootings and more than 200 mass shootings“.
The horrific school shootings on the back of the Covid Pandemic has taken a toll on ALL San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Stakeholders, especially at each school site. Teachers, Principals and all on site Staff are charged and fully committed to making the school environment a welcoming, safe space to learn and grow for Students. That committment is made doubly hard with these violent events and Covid.
This week in Sunday Reads we are featuring TWO articles from KQED that will hopefully provide some resources for all guardians of Students to address these terrible events and help their kids deal with the stresses of 2022.
We will NOT be providing our standard commentary…we will let the two articles speak for themselves.
We wish ALL of our readers a safe, happy and reflective Memorial Day 2022.
By Anna Kamenetz and Cory Turner – May 27, 2022
The news can be devastating: Communities are reeling after a mass shooting killed 21 people — including 19 children — at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. That’s after a shooter, motivated by a racist conspiracy theory, shot and killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., and another shooter in Dallas injured three women of Asian descent in what the police chief called “a hate crime.”
These events can be incomprehensible for adults — so how do we talk about them with kids?
We spoke with a handful of child development experts about what parents, teachers and other caregivers can say to help kids process all the scary news out there. Here’s what they had to say:
Limit their exposure to breaking news
“We can control the amount of information. We can control the amount of exposure,” says Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop.
Truglio says that for starters, try not to let your children experience the news without you. That includes letting the TV or audio play in the background. In 2017, 42 percent of parents of young children told Common Sense Media that the TV is on “always” or “most” of the time.
As a little girl growing up in rural Louisiana, Alison Aucoin remembers her father watching the evening news during the Vietnam War. “The way that our house was set up, it was kind of impossible for me to completely miss it.”
Aucoin vividly recalls the rapid fire of rifles and the shouting of soldiers, but it was two words that the reporters and anchors kept using that truly frightened her.
“[I] heard the words ‘guerrilla warfare’ and … thought, gorillas — like apes,” Aucoin says. “And I literally had a plan for where I would hide in my closet when the gorillas came.”
Truglio says that because we can’t control the news itself, adults need to control the technology that exposes kids to potentially traumatic news.
For big stories, ask: “What have you heard and how are you feeling?”
While it’s important to limit your kids’ exposure to potentially frightening media, some stories are simply too big to avoid. And as kids get older, if they don’t hear about it at home, they’ll almost certainly hear something from classmates at school.
Tara Conley, a media researcher at Montclair State University, says adults should choose a quiet moment to check in with their kids, maybe at the dinner table or at bedtime.
The idea, she says, is to allow kids to “ask questions about what they’re seeing, how they’re feeling and what do they think.” In other words: Give kids a safe space to reflect and share.
Give kids facts and context
Check-ins also allow you to debunk memes, myths and misconceptions, and that’s important in the social media maelstrom, says Holly Korbey, author of Building Better Citizens, a new book on civics education. In the days since the recent Iran news broke, she says, “My own teenagers were showing me these memes and rumors on Instagram spreading about boys being drafted for World War III, no kidding.”
Korbey says, “One of the most important things parents can do in this scary climate is to talk to kids about facts. For example: ‘No, there is not a draft, and no we haven’t started World War III.’ “
Truglio says that if scary news is happening far from home, the best thing a parent or caregiver can do is to reach for a map. Then, she says, a child could “see distance, that it’s not in their immediate environment.”
Some traumatic events, however, might be closer to home — a school shooting, for example. In that case, it’s important to convey that, overall, such events are incredibly rare. After all, that’s why it’s news.
When they ask why something happened, avoid labels like “bad guys”
Evan Nierman, a father of two, lives in Parkland, Fla. His son turned 11 the day after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and his daughter was 8. He says one of the toughest moments for him as a father was when his kids asked why the shooting happened. “And there’s obviously not a great answer for that. It’s hard to explain.”
Truglio says we should resist the temptation to label anyone “bad guys” or “evil.” It’s not helpful, and it may increase fear and confusion. Instead, she says, talk about people being in pain, being angry and making bad choices. That’s what Nierman and his wife settled on, telling their children that the shooter wasn’t well and needed help.
And according to Truglio, there’s one important thing parents shouldn’t be afraid to say: I don’t know.
“Sometimes we don’t have the answers to all of these whys,” she explains. “It’s important for parents to say … ‘I don’t know why it happened.'”
Encourage kids to process the story through play and art
Children often try to make sense of what they see and hear through art and creative play. Sometimes it can be disturbing for adults to see children reenact or draw something scary or violent, but this kind of play serves an important purpose.
Conley says, “Play is part of reconstructing [children’s] own stories.” She calls it “meaning-making” and says adults do it too — by discussing stories with friends or even sharing memes on social media. “It also helps us make sense of the world around us … when we’re being bombarded with information,” she explains, “and it helps us discern credible information.”
“Look for the helpers”
Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host, famously passed on this advice from his mother: “When something scary is happening, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Truglio did this when she talked to her then-young son about the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. The shooting happened on a Friday, and she kept him away from the television all weekend.
“We didn’t turn on the TV until President Obama spoke and there was a memorial service,” Truglio says. “We focused on the positive — how people were gathering and taking care of each other.”
There’s evidence that talking about helpers really does make a difference in how kids see their world. After the Columbine school shooting in 1999, Sesame Workshop studied school-age children’s perceptions of the world through their drawings. The images were full of violence, Truglio says: “guns and knives and dead people.”
But after the Sept. 11 attacks, just two years later, media coverage changed, she says, focusing more on themes like “the country is strong. The country’s coming together. We are united. We are going to get through this.” And this made a difference for kids: Their drawings featured American flags and heroes like police officers or firefighters.
Take positive action together
Alison Aucoin, who shared her memories and fears of the Vietnam War, is white; her daughter, Edelawit, was adopted from Ethiopia. Edelawit was just 7 years old when Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed while unarmed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
“I was scared that something like this would happen to me,” Edelawit, now 12, says, and ever since, whenever a similar, police-related shooting happens, she and her mother follow a few steps. First, her mother shares the news.
“I always have time to process it,” Edelawit says. “And then she says what I can do to protect myself. And then we go and protest.”
“In talking with our children,” Conley says, “we also have to show them how we’re helping too, and asking them, ‘How do you see yourself as a helper in these situations?’ “
You might consider bringing your child to a peaceful rally or protest, collecting donations together or writing to an elected official. A sense of agency can dramatically reduce a child’s anxiety.
In other words, don’t just look for the helpers … be the helpers.
By Allison Aubrey – May, 26, 2022
If you have school-age children, chances are they’ve already talked to their classmates about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. So what’s the best way to know how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking? Ask them.
“Children’s questions may be very different from adults’,” says David Schonfeld, a pediatrician who directs the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And the best way to determine how much information they need is to listen to them, he says.
“Before we can offer reassurance or help them with what’s bothering them, we have to understand what their actual concerns are,” Schonfeld says. His group has developed guidelines for talking to children after a tragic event.
Kids often ask who is to blame, what could have been done to prevent the tragedy or could it happen at my school? Truthful answers are important to build trust. In a year when the U.S. has already seen 27 school shootings and more than 200 mass shootings, the unfortunate answer is: Although school is typically a safe place, there are risks.
“A lot of people say to me, you know, ‘This is just the new normal,’ and my reaction to them is that there is nothing normal about this,” Schonfeld says.
When 19 children are gunned down, it is cause for deep distress. “It ought to be distressing — it’s an unacceptable situation,” he says. But for now, it’s an unfortunate reality of life in the United States. “We can help kids learn to cope with the distress that they feel when they recognize inherent dangers that are part of the world,” Schonfeld says.
A child’s age will determine how much information to share, but that’s not the only factor. Their emotional reaction may be linked to how much trauma they’ve experienced in the past or how closely they’re connected to a tragedy. If victims were their peers, the event will take a stronger emotional toll compared with children who hear about the shooting on the news. Regardless, it will take time for parents to comfort children and help them process such tragic events.
“We need to be patient, and sometimes especially young kids need to have these conversations over and over,” says Melissa Brymer, director of terrorism and disaster programs at the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. “Sometimes they need it in little chunks. They might not be able to digest everything in one sitting,” Brymer told NPR’s Morning Edition.
The American School Counselor Association has gathered a list of resources and tips to help after a school shooting. At the top is the recommendation to keep routines in place. Even if kids are anxious or fearful, there’s a benefit to going to school and maintaining daily activities. As the organization explains in its guide, “Kids gain security from the predictability of routine.”
The organization says it’s also helpful to limit how much media you and your children take in, whether it’s social media, radio, TV or reading news online. In a crisis, the main reason to watch, listen or read media coverage is to understand what’s happening. “But if you’re just watching the same coverage over and over again and it’s not helping you learn anything new that’s important to you and your family, then you probably should disconnect,” says Schonfeld.
In the days and weeks that follow a tragedy, parents should talk to their children about how to cope when they feel concerned or anxious. There are some really good books out there to have those conversations around, Brymer says. She recommends Once I Was Very Very Scared, by Chandra Ghosh Ippen, for the preschool set. In the story, lots of animals go through scary experiences, but each reacts differently and has its own way of coping. Brymer says books like this can assist parents and caregivers in helping children figure out the strategy that works best for them.
For parents of older children, another strategy is to help them convert feelings of anger or anxiety into action. Schonfeld says it’s natural to be angry and want to blame someone after a school shooting. But if kids direct their anger at an individual who acted in hatred — such as the shooter — it doesn’t take away grief or solve the problem. Anger can beget anger.
An alternative approach is to get involved in initiatives to address gun violence. For example, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., began pushing for gun control after the 2018 mass shooting there.
“It didn’t solve the problem, but it did make a difference,” says Schonfeld. The students have been effective advocates in bringing attention to gun violence.
“So I think, yes, kids can be part of the solution, but the adults have to be a big part of the solution too,” he says.
The bottom line, Schonfeld says, is to keep having conversations with your kids. Ask what they’re thinking and feeling — it’s a good place to start.
Now for our quote of the week for those passed away but who still live forever in our memory:
“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” – Elie Wiesel
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