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Political Conflict: How Can We Help the Children?

America has been struggling with political conflict. 

As teachers and parents, how can we help the students through these difficult times?

 
There has always been conflict in our world. Unfortunately, it seems like there's a lot more lately.

I hate to give away my age, but I remember quite a few instances of conflict and pain, including these assassinations: John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy. 
 
I was teaching during the Challenger explosion, Columbine, numerous school shootings, and teaching drills such as lockdown, shelter in place, evacuation, and reverse evacuation.

My own daughter remembers 9/11, various school shootings and other mass shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing (while living in Boston), various hurricanes and wildfires, Black Lives Matter protests, and now, the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Young adults in her age group are very familiar with violence, unfortunately.

There are no perfect answers on how to deal with events like this, but here are some things to think about:

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

Every child is different, and every child has his or her own tolerance for what they can handle. I personally don't believe in giving children any more information than they can handle, and this is a rocky road. It's important to give them true information in the form of facts, but be careful not to give too much information that will confuse or upset them. Avoid letting them watch the news, as many children don't have the tools to cope with what they see. Approach with caution! 

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

In order to understand what they know and how to help, it's important to listen to them. Find out what they understand and what needs clarification. Ask questions. Learn more about what's going on with them. What are they thinking? Help them.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

There are all sorts of mixed feelings these children might be experiencing. They may not even understand what they are feeling. We need to have lots of conversations, giving them a chance to explore and express their feelings. Art is a great way to let out feelings. Let them draw, paint, or create something to help them figure out what they are feeling.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

As the children explore their feelings, help them identify what they're feeling by sharing your own. If they are confused, tell a story about when you were confused about your own feelings. If they are frightened, tell them about a time you were frightened. Even better? Include information about how you dealt with those feelings.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

This one is so hard! I assure you, both sides of any conflict truly believe they are saying and doing what is right. Families of all your students belong to both sides of any conflict. It's important to keep opinions out of the classroom. But it's important for children to know that breaking the law or causing harm to others is never OK. One of my most valuable teaching lessons was learned while taking my students on a field trip to the local police station. When children asked about what happens to "bad people," they were answered with this comment: "There are no bad people, just people who made bad choices."

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

One or two good conversations might be enough for some children, but there are others who need a constant checking in. You know your students. Watch them closely. There may need to be frequent check-ins with several children to make sure they're OK. Some may need private conversations. Some may need group conversations. Morning meetings are great places to have these conversations.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

Children do open up in many situations. For some, it's a group discussion, such as Morning Meeting. For others, it's expressing themselves with art or music. Sometimes, a distraction is just what they need. Amazing conversations happen while simply playing board games. (My favorite is Apples to Apples... and I use the excuse that they're practicing reading skills, so I squeeze it into reading group time!)

Books are also an awesome way to get children to open up, and figure out the words to explain how they are feeling. It might be tough to find perfect books for the perfect situation, but reading some "feel good" books would be a great idea. You know these books... old favorites, happy endings, upbeat, joyful, and heartwarming. The kind of story that makes the children feel safe.
 

Things I truly believe:

  • Most people have good souls.
  • The children's mental health is far more important than academics.
  • They need to be heard, and they need to be loved.
  • Good will prevail.

 

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

 


Toxic Positivity

Have you ever heard anyone say these phrases?

  • Don't be so negative!
  • It will all be fine.
  • Look at the bright side.
  • Don't worry about it.
Toxic Positivity: Is it possible to be too positive? Here are some reasons why it can be, and what to do when someone is positively toxic.

 How about these?

  • Think only happy thoughts.
  • Good vibes only.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • There are plenty of people who have it worse.

These phrases are usually  spoken with the intention of being kind. 

But seriously, do they ever make you feel differently?

There really is a thing known as "toxic positivity." It's great to have a positive attitude, and to try to be happy. But some people go overboard. When that happens, it can be maddening!

Being positive all the time encourages one to suppress negative feelings, which leads to all sorts of physical and emotional issues such as mental illness, heart disease, insomnia, digestive problems and autoimmune disease.

We have life experiences that include good feelings and bad feelings. I confess, there have been times in my life where I have buried my negative feelings. It wasn't the best choice, but honestly, it was the only choice I had at the time. (Like when I suddenly became a single parent.) 

I wouldn't recommend it.

Negative feelings are real. They should be validated. People should be allowed to grieve. People need empathy and compassion. People need someone who cares.

The biggest problem with toxic positivity is that it brings shame. It's isolating and demoralizing. And more often than not, it makes a person feel even worse about real emotions they are feeling.

I've watched a few videos on Youtube that explain it far better than I can!



I hope these were helpful!

Here are some ideas on how to avoid toxic positivity:

Never put a person down for having feelings!

Toxic Positivity: Is it possible to be too positive? Here are some reasons why it can be, and what to do when someone is positively toxic.
Sometimes there really isn't a bright side, and people are hurting! Don't brush them off when they need you!
 
Seriously, really bad things happen. Happiness isn't always a choice.

I think this is the one that annoys me the most. How could a person really compare your feelings to someone else? We are all different and unique, and we all need empathy and compassion more than comparisons.

Ideas for handling when someone gives toxic positivity instead of empathy and compassion.

It's ok to let it out. There are socially acceptable ways to let it out. Please don't hold it in.

Don't be the "giver" of toxic positivity!

It's ok to hurt. It's ok to grieve. It's all ok. In fact, it's human, and it's healthy. (You might not want to grieve 24/7, but it's important to let it out.)

Let your friends and work companions see good examples of dealing with feelings. Teach through example.

It's not always possible to avoid those "fair weather friends" but we can try to spend most of our time with people who can show compassion and caring.
 
I truly believe it's possible to be positive much of the time. But don't let it become toxic, and don't let it bury valid feelings.
 
And try to remember, the people who are doing this mean well.

Toxic Positivity: Is it possible to be too positive? Here are some reasons why it can be, and what to do when someone is positively toxic.


They're Not "Falling Behind..."

They're not "falling behind." 

They're surviving a pandemic!

 

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.

I saw this phrase posted on Twitter the other day, and it struck a nerve.

Well, technically, yes, they are falling behind academically from where they should be at this point in their lives. And I know that frustrates teachers, parents, and administrators. 

The pandemic has been very difficult on all of us, but the children have had their lives uprooted. Yet, many of the children don't even understand why!

They can't see their friends. They can't see their teachers. They can't have conversations. They have to sit in front of a screen, and do assignments with little or no interaction. Their parents are frustrated if they need attention or help, as they are trying to do their own work. Or worse, their parents aren't there.

Even those who are lucky enough to be in school aren't having the expected school experience. They can't sit next to each other. They can't work in small groups. They can't share materials. They have to wear masks all the time.

It is a rare child who has the self motivation to pay attention during online learning, do assignments independently, and pass them in on time. After all they're kids!

 
These poor kids!

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.
 
Zoom fatigue is real. Depression is real. Right now, these children are struggling with far more important things than schoolwork. Yes, I'm a teacher, I really did say that, but seriously, there really are things more important than schoolwork. Their mental health, for example!


With new vaccines being released, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not forever!

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.

Help them to understand this... it's not easy for little ones!

 
But I hope to think of this as a time where they are growing in other areas.

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.

It's a good time to focus on their whole well-being, not just academics.

How can we do that? Simple! Talk to them, learn what interests them, let them explore those things.

Right now, they're really needing to socialize, yet it's not easy with social distancing. Look for ways to get them talking to each other in safe ways... break out Zoom groups, socially distanced chats, and I'm sure there are other ways if we can be creative!

Here are a few other ideas to take the pressure off the academics and let children explore and learn other, important life skills:

Cooking and baking - besides the following directions and math skills, children are learning to be self-sufficient!

Take walks - As long as they're socially distanced, walking is not only good exercise, but it's a great way to explore the world.

Spend time outside - besides walking, there are plenty of outdoor places to visit and outdoor things to do that are safe and will get them breathing fresh air and getting excited about things going on around them! Children can learn about gardening, shadows, rainbows, qualities of air, properties of water, local animals, and plenty more!

Play board games - There are so many things children learn from playing board games! Just make sure you don't always let them win. Losing gracefully is an important skill!

And the most important thing we can do: Read to them! - I can't emphasize this enough. Read daily. Talk about the books. Let them choose the books. Choose books that will get them talking. Make it the best part of the day! (It's always my favorite time of the day!)

I've always been a believer that we are happier when we have something to look forward to. Right now, that's more important than ever! They might need your help with this, but I'm sure you can help the children find something positive in their future! 

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.

You know, I truly believe the academics will level off. They won't be behind forever!

 Here are a few links to similar blog posts: 


Our world is crazy right now! Many students will not return to school until the autumn.What can we do about that extra long summer slide?

Avoiding TOO MUCH Screen Team: Technology is fabulous, and it's helping bridge education and communication during Social Distancing, but TOO MUCH is harmful. Here are some alternate activities to keep children offline. There's even a freebie!

 

Five Ways to Get Them Learning OUTSIDE!  There's something special about being outside, and it's a great place to practice important skills.
What are your ideas for helping the children grow in ways other than academically during the pandemic?

They're Not "Falling Behind..." They're Surviving a Pandemic! This blog post lists some challenges and ideas for helping children through a pandemic.


Learning About the USA

There is a lot going around in politics that is far too brutal for small children. Yet, their little eyes and ears are open, and they're noticing what is going on around them. I think this is a good time for the children to learn about the USA.


Learning About the USA: Here are several resources and freebies to help young children learn about their country in a stress and opinion free manner!

I prefer to use this interest to teach the children more "safe," "non-biased" information about their country. As teachers, we have an obligation to teach them to think for themselves, and certainly not to tell them how to think! 

I have several Amazon affiliate links below that will bring a few pennies to me, with absolutely no cost to you. These are some examples of teaching the children about the United States without teaching them to have an opinion.

Kids LOVE maps, and they LOVE puzzles!!
Beginner's Atlas 
 
USA Destinations

 
50 Fearless Women 
 
No Voice Too Small  
 
I'm sure you know plenty more children's books to educate children about the United States of America! (Leave a comment below with your favorites!)
 

Here are a few resources that can be used throughout the year, whether or not there is a patriotic holiday on the horizon!

 
This is my newest Boom Learning set: the children think about each USA fact, and decide if it is true or false.  Fun Facts About the USA
 
Fun Facts about the USA: Boom Learning
These Reading Comprehension for Active Learners sets have always been a big hit for my learners! This one tells about the 5 branches of the US military.
Freedom Isn't Free
 
Reading Comprehension for Active Learners: Freedom isn't Free
This election themed noun practice matching game can be used any time of year! Election Common and Proper Nouns
 
Election Themed Common and Proper Nouns
 
Here's another Boom Learning set comparing two of the countries in North America! Canada, USA, or Both?
 
Canada, USA, or both? Boom Learning
 

These mapping task cards help children learn their way around the USA map!Mapping Task Cards USA Set OneMapping Task Cards Set Two
 
Mapping Task Cards USA

This set combines several skills, and can be used for Presidents Day, Election Day, or any day you're learning about the USA! Mapping, Comparing, Syllables, and Opinion Writing with a President Theme
 
Mapping, comparing, syllables, and opinion writing for presidents day, election day, or any day!
Do your students struggle to remember which patriotic holiday is which? American Holidays: A Sorting Game
 
American Holidays: A Sorting game

 All the above items are contained in this bundle, plus the ones below, all at a huge discount!  Learning About the USA Bundle
Learning about the USA Bundle!

Here are a whole bunch of freebies related to learning about the USA. Enjoy!
 
 








Please don't hesitate to share in the comments below how you help younger children learn about the USA!

Learning About the USA: Here are several resources and freebies to help young children learn about their country in a stress and opinion free manner!



Why Can't Children Pay Attention During Online Learning?

I've heard many complaints about young children who aren't able to stay attentive during online classes.

Are you finding this to be the case?
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.
 
Of course you are! Why? Because children were never meant to spend hours paying attention to a screen!

Yes, I know what you're thinking: but my kid can pay attention to a screen for hours when it's a video game!

Well, yes, there are hours of planning, creating, coding, and designing going into the constant stimulation of a video game. That's not realistic in an online classroom setting.
Plus, we know that's not in their best interest. (See this blog post: Avoiding TOO MUCH screen time!)

But paying attention to a teacher all day while sitting at the computer? Wow, that's a totally different story!

Here are a few reasons why it's hard for them:
 

Emotional Needs

Most teachers are familiar with the expression, "Maslow Before Blooms!" Maslow is known for his Hierachy of Needs. Besides those very basic needs of food, warmth, and rest, are the emotional needs of security and safety. Along with those are a need to feel important, included, and respected.

As much as teachers and parents are trying, with our crazy world these days, these needs are not always being met. Social distancing makes it all so much tougher!

Limited Attention Spans!

Research tells us that a child's attention span is roughly the child's age, plus or minus 5 minutes. That means the maximum attention span for a Kindergartener is ten minutes, tops! This maxes out at 20 minutes for teenagers and beyond. Yes, I'm sure your mind starts to drift after about 20 minutes, doesn't it?

Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

 Distractions!

Sitting at a computer and paying attention to a lesson is even harder when there are a plethora of distractions about, including: a friend in the same Zoom, a sibling getting attention in the same room, the TV in the background, a pet, knowing the toys are right nearby, and the child's own thought process!

In school, a teacher simply could walk past a student's desk to bring them back into focus, but that can't happen online!
 
 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

What can we do about it?

Yes, learning online is a whole lot harder than learning in class, but all is not lost. I certainly don't have all the answers, but here are some ideas:
 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

 Develop Relationships

It's tougher to get to know children online than it is in class, but it's possible! I find morning meetings are a great way to get to know your students and build community. Just be careful: when sharing, don't make the little ones wait too long for their own turn. Remember those attention spans! (Don't forget to review rules of listening, including looking at the speaker and sitting still. Plus, review the rules of speaking, including speaking clearly and keeping it short!)
 
 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

 Respect Their Developmental Needs

 
Children need to move! Please don't expect them to sit still for long periods. There are plenty of brain breaks that can be done online. (Go Noodle, for one!) Plus, there are plenty of learning games that can be done online or in a socially distant classroom.
 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

Incorporate the Arts!

If you've ever read my blog before, you'll know that I'm a huge supporter of the arts, and try to include these in my teaching in every way possible. (Yes, I have a master's degree in Creative Arts in Learning!) It's a great idea to include drawing or creating in many lessons, as these internalize learning, but don't forget the other arts! Art is considered any expression of emotion, and people express their emotions in different ways. 
 
All of these are considered arts: 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

Examples of the Arts

This is just a partial list of my personal definition of the arts. I think you'll agree, both parenting and teaching are arts, aren't they? Seriously, any way that people have to express themselves creatively counts!  I'm sure you have things you are passionate about that you could add to this list!
 
Some related posts: 

Please remember!

This is a very challenging time in our world. I'm not sure all administrators would agree with me, but academics are not our priority right now. Our children are experiencing several levels of trauma. We need to be there for them. Academics will come later. Yes, I promise you, they'll all catch up!

Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

 
Why can't children pay attention during online learning? There are several reasons why this is tough for children. Here are a few ideas.

 

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