Resources for Elementary Families

In times of national crisis

Leaders in the West Hartford Public Schools developed this guide to support your conversations with children about the recent events in Washington, DC and other times when our country is faced with national crisis. We welcome your resources and ideas to continue the conversation.

Our children are looking to us to know that home and school are places of safety, routines, and connection.

As West Hartford families and educators, we need to listen to our children. They need a safe space to share their feelings. They may wonder about their own safety or the safety of their families. They may be thinking about what our nation stands for and our future as Americans. They may be seeking facts or information. They may rely on us to offer hope.

Most children will trust family members more than anyone else to talk about these recent events. Teachers and other adults are a second trusted source of information.


Courageous Conversations Compass

We all enter these conversations from a different place. We all may react differently when faced with news about a crisis. Similarly we enter conversations to process that information in different ways. As a district, we have utilized the Courageous Conversations Compass as a framework to ground our conversations about identity, race, equity and other social justice topics. It is a helpful tool to support us in understanding different aspects of how we experience our own emotions, empathize and relate to others. The compass allows us to examine where we are in the moment. The Compass was developed by Glenn Singleton, founder of the Pacific Educational Group.

Each of the resources below support reflection and discussion within the courageous conversation frames.

Big picture

A 2017 Common Sense Media survey of children age 10 to 18 found 63 percent say the news makes them afraid, angry or depressed.

What can families do?

Our first step is the acknowledge and understand our own adult emotions and responses to the situation. Then we can better listen to our children and respond based on their emotions and needs.

"This isn’t just a one-time conversation," Janine Domingues (Child Mind Institute). Start off by asking kids what they know and what they’ve heard, because they’re absorbing it in the background.

The advice offered to educators and families from children’s media experts in the January 20, 2020 NPR piece, What To Say to Kids When the News is Scary, provides a starting point:

  1. Limit young children’s exposure to breaking news.

  2. Ask: "What have you heard and how are you feeling?"

  3. Give kids facts and context.

  4. When they ask why something happened, tell the truth. Avoid labels like "bad guys." "It's not helpful, and it may increase fear and confusion.”

  5. Encourage kids to process the story through art/creative expression. This helps children make meaning of what they are hearing or seeing.
  6. "Look for the helpers." Fred Rogers, children's TV host, shared this advice from his mother: "When something scary is happening, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
  7. Take positive action together.

Five Tips to Talk to Kids and Ease Their Anxiety (video)

School Crisis and Community Resources

Digital Resources for Students

Our school library media specialists, curriculum specialists, and teachers are engaged in ongoing work to build robust school social-emotional learning print and digital collections. The following resources may also support your conversations with your child: