Perspectives 03-15-19

How Can You Respond to Tragedy with Elementary Students?


They will ask what happened.
Children are better able to cope with upsetting news when they understand more about the upsetting event. They need information just as adults do. Begin by asking your child what they already understand about a tragedy. They have likely heard about it on TV, at school, or from their friends. However, much of their information may not be accurate. As they explain what they know, you can figure out what it is they don’t already know or understand. Look for misunderstandings or frightening rumors. Tell the truth and do not try to mislead them “for their own good.” Children of different ages understand and react differently according to their developmental age and unique personal experiences. It is important to remember that we cannot assume that children's worries are the same as our own. When we listen to our children and come to understand their feelings and worries, we can better help them make sense of these experiences and how they affect us all.


The amount of details that children will find useful will depend upon their age. The older the child is, the more details will likely be needed to answer their concerns. Provide the basic information in simple and direct terms and then ask for questions. Take your cues from your child in determining how much information to provide. Older children may wish to discuss the larger implications of the event. Provide reassurance whenever possible. Children often look for reassurance that they are now safe after such graphic reminders of danger and hatred take place in locations usually associated with happy memories. Terrorist acts remind adults that we are never completely safe – but now is the best time to reassure children that they can and should feel safe in their school, in their home, and in their community.


Could I have done anything to prevent this? 
After a tragic event, we all wonder what we and others could have done to prevent this from happening. Even when it is obvious that there is nothing your child could have done to prevent or minimize the crisis, they may still feel helpless and wish they could have changed what happened. Let children know that this is a normal reaction; we all wish that there is something we could have done to prevent a tragedy. Instead, suggest that together you and your child can concentrate on what can be done now to help those most directly affected and to ensure safety, tolerance and acceptance in our communities.


Whose fault is it? 
In some ways, blaming is a way to feel as if you can regain control of uncomfortable feelings and the risk being felt. While it is natural to engage in thoughts of blame, this doesn’t ease the immediate feelings of grief and fear nor does it provide any solutions for the future. It is understandable that people would be angry at the individuals who commit acts of terrorism and hatred, but sadly sometimes people are also angry at those people that are easier to find and blame – such as people who look like they might belong to the group that was responsible. Children should be told that although it is normal to feel angry, terrorists do not represent a particular race or ethnic group. We as Americans take pride in having members of many different races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. This is a time to join together and continue to be inclusive, accepting and supportive to all who seek peace.


Is this going to change my life? 
This is a question that we all struggle to answer, not only for our children but also for ourselves. Especially in difficult times, children may act immaturely. Children are often very concerned about themselves. When there is a tragic event, they may become even more concerned about what affects them personally. Adults who do not understand this may see this as being selfish or uncaring. It is important to make your children feel comfortable in asking questions and expressing their feelings. Expect your children to think more about themselves for the time being. Once they feel reassured that they are being listened to and their needs will be met, they are more likely to be able to start to think about the needs of others.


Can I help? 
Once children start to feel safe and understand what is going on, many will want to help. While there may be little that they can do now to help the immediate victims of this crisis, there is a lot they can do to help. They can start by taking care of themselves – telling you when they are upset or worried, being honest and open. They can also offer help to other members of their community – their friends and classmates, their teacher, and other adults. Over time, they can think about how they, along with other members of their community, might be able to do something helpful for the victims and survivors.


Some of the questions my child asks are so painful to respond to. I don’t want to make things worse, so should I say nothing instead? 
Often what children need most is to have someone they trust listen to their questions, accept their feelings, and be there for them. Don’t worry about knowing the perfect thing to say – there is no answer that will make everything okay. Listen to their concerns and thoughts, answer their questions with simple, direct and honest responses, and provide appropriate reassurance and support. While we all want to keep our children from ever having to hear about a tragedy, reality does not allow this. Being silent on the issue won’t protect them from what happened, but only prevent them from understanding and coping with it. Remember that answers and reassurance should be at the level of the child's understanding.


What if this upsets them? During these discussions, children may show that they are upset – they may cry, get anxious or cranky, or show you in some other way that they are upset. Remember, it is the events that are upsetting them, not the discussion. Talking about the event will permit them the opportunity to show you how upset they really are. This is the first step in coping with their feelings and adjusting to their new understanding of the world. Pause the conversation periodically so that you can provide support and comfort to your child and ask if he or she wishes to continue the discussion at another time. But it is helpful for them to realize that it is okay to show you when they are upset. Otherwise, they may try to hide their feelings and will then be left to deal with them alone.


What if they don’t ask any questions – should I bring it up? What if they don’t seem to want to talk about it?
 When a major crisis of this nature occurs, it is a good idea to bring the topic up with your children, no matter how young they are. At first, children may tell you that they don’t want to or need to discuss it. It is generally not a good idea to force them to talk with you, but do keep the door open for them to come back and discuss it later. Be available when your child is ready to talk, but let them choose the time. Often children find it easier to talk about what other children are saying or feeling instead of talking about themselves.


How can I tell if my child needs more than I can provide? Where would I go for such help?
 When there is a large tragedy or a tragedy that strikes close to home, most people will be upset. However, should your child continue to be very upset for several days and is unable to recover from their fears, or they are having trouble in school, home or with their friends, then it is a good idea to speak with someone outside the family for advice. A tragedy may trigger other distressing experiences, worries or concerns of your child. You may wish to speak with your child’s teacher or school counseling services, pediatrician, mental health counselor or member of the clergy for advice. Please remember that you shouldn’t wait until you think they NEED counseling – you should take advantage of counseling and support whenever you think it will be helpful.


What if I have more questions? Where can I turn for answers?
 Visit the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students at, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network at, or the National Association of School Psychologists at


From NAESP’s Communicator, June 2016, Volume 39, Issue 10


Check your child’s backpack for a yearbook order form if you haven’t already seen it. Yearbooks are $15, and orders are due Wednesday, March 20th. You can order with the paper form or online at , using Yearbook ID: 9775119.


Ordering a yearbook? We need your help! This year we have a hopeful and ambitious goal of every Horace Mann student receiving a yearbook. If you are able, please consider adding a donation with your order (with your form or online) to help purchase a yearbook for your child’s classmate who might not otherwise be able to buy one. Any amount is helpful. If we exceed the goal to purchase yearbooks for all students, any excess donations will be set aside for this purpose for next year. Let’s try to make it possible for every Horace Mann student to enjoy the fun, memories, and sense of belonging on the day yearbooks arrive!


National School Social Work Was March 3-9th Thanks to Ms. McParland for all she does for students, families, and staff!


Silent Auction Success! Another successful Silent & Live Auction was held this past Friday, March 8. 250 Horace Mann family members attended. Final totals aren't out yet, but all indications are excellent. We had tremendous community involvement from donations to volunteering to bidding to the 61 great gatherings submitted this year!


Several Great Gatherings still have openings – Please check your child’s backpack this week for the flyer that lists all of the open spots.  There is a potential to raise an additional $12,300 if all of the open Great Gathering spots are filled.


The Silent Auction Committee acknowledges everyone who helped out to make the event possible. From the teachers and families who created and donated wonderful projects, to the community and businesses for donations, to everyone who bid and bought, THANK YOU!


This event isn't possible without the Silent Auction committee members putting in hours of planning, preparing, collecting, and hosting this event. Special recognition goes to Allison Broughton, Cody Brunelle, Lauren Carlson, Karla Lauerman Cummins, Kaisa Johnson, Amy Kortuem, Scott McMahon, Anne Pavlis, Katie Sexe, Karen VanderSanden, and Jennifer Williams for all of their hard work and effort. 


The committee is seeking new members for next year’s auction – The Silent Auction raises approximately 50% of the annual PTA budget for the year and several members are ‘graduating’ from Horace Mann.  We will need new members in order to continue the Silent Auction in the future. If interested, please send an email to Anne Pavlis at


School Mini-Celebration We recognize it was a long, hard winter. We appreciate all of the students’ hard work and effort to date. We believe that some of our students and families aren’t able to return to school for evening events and activities. So we are going to reward the students and celebrate with a schoolwide movie on Friday, March 29. We will select a fun, G-rated movie to show. Look for more info next week.


Jump Rope for Heart Begins This month students in grades 1-5 will participate in the annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser.


Jump Rope for Heart is a voluntary service program that has become an annual event for our students, with thousands of other schools and millions of kids participating across the USA every year. The program has raised more than $1.2 billion since its start in 1978. Since 2011, students at Horace Mann have raised $48,615, including $8,232 last year alone.


Jump Rope for Heart is designed with four simple goals:

  1. Get kids active (by having them jump rope).
  2. Educate kids about their hearts, and heart-healthy habits.
  3. Raise money for cardiovascular research and outreach programs.
  4. Teach kids the value of community service.


Students may fundraise by asking friends and family for donations that will be sent to the American Heart Association (to support research and education programs).


This past week students were given their donation envelopes which contain information about Jump Rope for Heart. We strongly encourage using the online donation feature. It really makes the process easier. If you do write a check, please make it out to the American Heart Association. We discourage cash, but if necessary, we will ask our PTA to help us write a check for cash donations. Envelopes are due to Mr. Castillo by Friday, March 29.


Please refer any questions to Mr. Castillo.  


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Important School Dates Bookmark our school calendar and check it frequently. You can go to and click calendar or use the direct link,


Monday, March 18

  • 3:00-4:45pm EDL

Tuesday, March 19

  • 9:30-11:30am Fridlund & Pickart Class Field Trip to MIA
  • 3:00-4:10pm Winter Community Education Classes

Wednesday, March 20

  • 9:30-11:30am Commers & Witt Class Field Trip to MIA
  • No EDL
  • Spring Conferences 4:00-7:00pm

Thursday, March 21

  • 9:30-11:30am Vincent & Harmon Class Field Trip to MIA 
  • No Winter Community Education Classes
  • Spring Conferences 4:00-7:00pm

Friday, March 22

  • No School - Spring Conferences

Monday, March 25

  • 3:00-4:45pm EDL

Tuesday, March 26

  • 9:00-10:30am Gr 2-3 Music Concert Rehearsal
  • 1:30-2:30pm Gr 5 Minnesota State Survey
  • 3:00-4:10pm Winter Community Education Classes

Wednesday, March 27

  • 9:15-11:30am Gr 3 Field Trip to Steppingstone Theatre
  • 1:30pm Gr 2-3 Music Concert for the School
  • 3:00-4:45pm EDL
  • 6:30pm Gr 2-3 Music Concert for Families

Thursday, March 28

  • 8:30am-1:30pm Gr 5 Puberty Presentation by Family Tree Clinic
  • 9:30-11:30am Brunelle & Jalonack’s Class Field Trip to MIA
  • 3:00-4:10pm Winter Community Education Classes

Friday, March 29

  • All-School Movie Celebration

Perspective submissions are due by 7:30am on Thursdays. Submissions after 7:30am will be included in the next edition.