I sat this week in a classroom of 5th grade students, a class I have worked with with my wife many times since they started the 4th grade last school year. We have been helping them learn how to create a caring classroom community, and they are awesome! Monday, they had the Sandy Hook School shooting on their minds, so we opened up the floor for anyone to share how they were feeling about the shooting, or any thoughts they had about it. What they shared was incredible, and a fascinating look into how kids process events like this.
Several kids started the discussion talking about how they felt safe in their own school, and then proceeded to dissect how many and where all the exits were throughout the school, as well as the beep-in service at the locked doors. A few kids said they mostly felt safe at school, but also not totally safe.
One boy stated that he had noticed that there had been more school shootings since 9-11, and wondered if Osama Bin Laden had any effect on them. Another boy said he had heard that some people weren’t very happy that our country had a black president, and wondered if that had any effect on school shootings.
Then a girl shared that her best friend’s dad had been killed 2 years ago, and that her friend had changed because of it and was never the same again; at this point she broke into tears, and wondered if the students in Newtown would ever be the same after their tragedy.
Another girl started talking about her grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and how her grandma has taped pictures of all her relatives, including this girl, on her door so that when they visit she will remember who they are. She started crying too, because it feels like she has lost her grandmother.
Another girl shared through tears that she is really sad by what happened, and is too sensitive to be around people talking about it. The class committed to being really sensitive to her and others with similar concerns.
Finally, a boy shared that the story reminded him that we are all connected through our hearts, and that we really are all one people.
I couldn’t have said it better.
Kids like these 5th graders, and like your children, are trying to make sense of the senseless. They hear pieces of information from the TV news, radio, and from hearing their parents and other adults talking about the shooting. They are bright and caring, yet lack the perspective and the wisdom that comes from experience. They need to be heard; sometimes they need information; and most of all they need our love and our understanding.
Make sure there is enough quiet, down time for them to know that if they need to talk that you will be there to listen and be fully present.