As hurricane Sandy approaches the east coast of the U.S., many teachers are getting a much-deserved break for a couple of days, but many people may also be experiencing the trauma of the storm. In the midst of this challenge, Halloween also occurs, and even for those schools that don’t celebrate the holiday, its effect on children and families is still significant.
Children will be returning to school after at least a few days of unusual schedules, anxiety, and perhaps even staying in shelters or with other family members. Natural disasters take their toll on children as they are immersed in the anxiety around them. The added excitement of Halloween can create the perform storm of classroom chaos! Here are some tips to stay calm, productive, and supportive at this challenging time:
- Keep yourself calm. Monitor your stress levels and take time to relax and breathe deeply. Spend your break time sitting quietly rather than running errands or getting tasks done. Find a few moments to be still, close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a place that’s relaxing.
- Retain your daily schedule. As much as possible, keep things running in your classroom as close to normal as possible. Children need the security of a predictable routine. If you are having a party or parade, keep it short and return to your regular activities in between.
- Alternate activity and calm. Children have been stuck indoors for a few days and will need to be active. Consider music and movement activities that can guide the excess energy in positive ways. Alternate this activity with times to regroup and calm down. Read your favorite stories, provide art activities, and practice deep breathing with the children.
- Build community. Remind the children of how to say kind words, how to care for each other, and let them know you care, too. Natural disasters and holidays are two powerful ways of bringing people closer to each other. Build on this energy by reminding the children how important they are to each other and using community building activities.
- Provide extra support. Some children may experience trauma from the storm, in both large and small amounts. Observe children who might need an extra hug, to be listened to, and or who might need more professional support. Some children are very uncomfortable with high-energy celebrations such as Halloween and will need extra support to stay calm or in control. Provide these children time to be alone in a quiet spot, or practice some relaxation activities. They might need your calm, reassuring presence and extra attention.
I wish everyone safe passage through the storm on the east coast of the U.S. – or to those experiencing unusual challenges anywhere in the world. Share with us in the comments how you respond to these challenges in your classroom.