It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post. It has been 10 days since the heartbreaking incident at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas when I’m writing this. Ten days that parents, families, friends, teachers, the Uvalde community, and the nation have been reeling from another senseless act of gun violence. It has been 10 days since a typical day at school ended in a nightmare where 19 children and two teachers didn’t go home. As an early childhood educator and onlooker from afar I have been experiencing a sadness I can hardly put into words. If this is how I feel, I cannot begin to imagine the sense of grief that those close to the victims and the Uvalde community are experiencing and I selfishly hope I never will.
In February of 2018, I had to write our first blog post on gun violence following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 children and staff became innocent victims on Valentine’s Day. In that post found here, I focused on preparedness and planning. I talked about how to plan for an active shooter incident, where to evacuate your students to, and who should know where that safe space is located. The focus of this post will shift to how to take care of yourself and the children and families in your care after a tragedy or disaster occurs. Some of your school-age programs are closing for the school year while others of you will continue to provide care through the summer. I want you to know that I am here for you. Our team of Program Quality Assessors across the state is here for you. Our early education system in Pennsylvania is here for you.
Children if nothing, are intuitive. They may sense the pain or sadness you’re feeling from watching or reading the endless articles, social media posts, news programs, and the presidential address. They see it in your eyes, sense it in your tone of voice, feel it in the hug that lingers a little longer than it did before May 24th. Children may have heard or seen some scary images related to this recent event. How will you answer questions that children might have about the tragedy in Uvalde? “How much information do I share?” you might ask yourself. How can you support the families in your care and show them that “you’re there” for them? This brings me to a quote I am sure you’ve heard from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” In this case, you are the helper. Your job is important, and you are important in the lives of the children and families in your care. Do yourself a favor and take some time for yourself to think of how you will handle questions that will be asked. How will you respond to children? How will those difficult conversations with parents go? How will you show support and how do you plan to take time for yourself to replenish your soul and refill your own bucket?
The resources that I have chosen to include at the end of this post are resources that were carefully selected to support you. These resources are intended to help you navigate the difficult emotions that parents and children in your care may be experiencing, especially remembering to take care of yourself as well.