Helping Students in Troubling Times
Here are some suggestions and resources to consider as you provide ongoing support to your students. Before you take any action, consult with your district to discover any guidance or response initiatives it has in place so your actions align with school and district programs.
- During an emotional period, it is important to remind students that their strong emotions will pass and therefore they must refrain from drastic or risky behaviors that could have long-term consequences. If they feel they’ve suffered an emotional loss, they must give themselves time to heal.
- Don’t provide assurances you can’t ensure. If students are fearful, don’t tell them, “Everything will be okay.” For some students, the dangers they fear are very real. However, you can help them find positive ways to address their fears.
- Help students process information or images they find inflammatory in print, television and social media. Very often, simply discussing current events can help students develop a better understanding, and expressing their emotions can help students deal with them more effectively.
- Encourage all students to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of differences in culture and beliefs. All students deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their political beliefs, socio-economic background, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors.
- Take clear actions to intervene with situations of bullying or harassment and review bullying prevention activities. Remind students of school and district policies related to offensive language, harassment and bullying.
- Check in with students who may be at risk for bullying and harassment, recognizing that all students have the right to be treated equally and fairly with dignity and respect as unique individuals, free from discrimination, harassment and bullying. Reassure them that there are adults who can help, and work with them to identify those they can go to in a time of need, and encourage them to seek out an adult they trust and are comfortable talking to.
- For students experiencing anxiety or sadness, consider ASCA Student Standards: Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success such as these.
- M 2. Sense of acceptance, respect, support and inclusion for self and others in the school environment
- M 4. Self-confidence in ability to succeed
- B-SMS 7. Effective coping skills when faced with a problem
- B-SS 2. Positive, respectful and supportive relationships with other students
- B-SS 3. Positive relationships with adults to support success
- B-SMS 10. Ability to manage transitions and ability to adapt to changing situations and responsibilities
- B-SS 1. Effective oral and written communication skills and listening skills
- B-SS 6. Effective collaboration and cooperation skills
- B-SMS 9. Personal safety skills
- Review upcoming topics for classroom lessons to determine any adjustments you could make to address your school’s climate. If you don’t have classroom lessons scheduled in the immediate future, consider adding them to have an impact on a larger group of students.
- Consider additional support through small groups for students who may need more in-depth interventions and actively identify those students through needs assessments, faculty referrals, observation or other means.
- Consult and collaborate with stakeholders to create a school climate that welcomes and appreciates the strengths and gifts of all students, particularly culturally diverse students.
- Consult and collaborate with relevant stakeholders when student assistance is needed, including the identification of early warning signs of student distress. Student privacy should be honored to the greatest extent possible while balancing the best interests of students and the safety of self and others. Review the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors (PDF) when weighing issues of confidentiality.
- Consult with parents if you have concerns about a student, and share local referral resources as needed.
- Collaborate with teachers and administrators to ensure that information is shared appropriately with those who have a need to know.
- Consult with other school counselors and district school counseling supervisors when considering the best approach for supporting a student or when a breach of confidentiality may be necessary.
- Provide a safe space for students and allies to discuss fears of safety and well-being. Promote sensitivity and acceptance of diversity among all students and staff to include LGBTQ+ students, immigrants, members of religious minorities and diverse family systems.
- Standards: ASCA Student Standards: Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success (PDF)
- Standards: ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors (PDF)
- Toolkit: Race and Equity Resources
- Model policy: A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools (PDF)
- Webinar: Infusing a Caring Climate in Your School
- Magazine article: Alleviating Anxiety Through School Counseling Interventions
- Journal article: Stories From the Field: Addressing Racism in Schools
Resources Specific to the Events in Ukraine
- San Diego County Office of Education
Resources for Educators, Families to Discuss the Events in Ukraine with Students
- British Psychological Society
Supporting Children to Manage Anxiety over War, Conflict and Crisis
- Save the Children
Ukraine: Five Ways to Talk to Children About Conflict
- The New York Times
How to Talk to Kids About Ukraine
- Education Week
How to Talk with Students About the Russia-Ukraine War: 5 Teaching Tips
8 Resources Teachers are Using to Discuss Russia's Invasion of Ukraine
How to Help Students Cultivate Hope When Worrisome News is Stressing Them Out
- PBS So Cal
How to Talk to Kids About the Ukraine Invasion
- Crisis Management Institute
Talking with Youth About Ukraine
- National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
Talking to Children and Teens About the War in Ukraine
Additional Resources for Troubling Times
Anti-Defamation League: 11 Ways Schools Can Help Students Feel Safe in Challenging Times
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
The Child Mind Institute: How to Help Children Cope With Frightening News
Education Week: Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic Event
Edutopia: Five Ways to Help Students with Trauma
Facing History and Ourselves: Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations
Share My Lesson: Navigating Unprecedented History with Students
Learning for Justice
When Bad Things Are Happening
To Sustain the Tough Conversations, Active Listening Must be the Norm
Do Something: Student Tasks
The National Association of School Psychologists: Guidance for Reinforcing Safe, Supportive and Positive School Environments for All Students
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
NPR: What to Say to Kids When the News is Scary
National Center for School Crisis & Bereavement: Talking to Children About Terrorist Attacks and School and Community Shootings in the News