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Conversations with Children About Violence
September 19, 2022
Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
-Catherine M. Wallace and Diane Leonard, authors
When children witness or hear about acts of violence, "as teachers, we are often children’s ‘first responders’ when it comes to worries, fears, and questions." It can be both difficult and important to know how to respond. David Barry and Lisa Lucas felt this vividly in the wake of the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary and a local threat and lockdown at Lisa’s school. Repeated incidents, especially the shootings in Uvalde, urged Barry and Lucas to reach out to support other teachers and caregivers. The newest Exchange Reflections discussion guide, "Conversations with Children about Violence," based on Barry and Lucas’ recent article, is designed to help early years professionals come together on these difficult topics and be more prepared as a team to respond.

Barry and Lucas offer ten tips, including:

  • If your students bring it up, you need to address it.
  • Listen first, then correct misinformation.
  • Share back only factual and relevant information.
  • Talk about feelings.
  • Conclude the conversation by bringing it back to safety.
  • Maintain routines as much as possible.
  • Communicate and support their caregivers.
  • Consider acts of advocacy and victim support.
  • Prepare for children with varying levels of information.

They conclude, "It is our sincerest hope that some of what we have shared here will be supportive to you, your students, and their families. Though there is no standard way to have conversations about violence with children, our experiences as early childhood teachers and teacher educators have taught us that sometimes just having a place to start is enough; we hope this may serve as that imperfect starting place for you."


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