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Having Meaningful Conversations With Children When The Topic Is Uncomfortable For Adults

by Jen Cort, Founder, Jen Cort Educational Consultingicebergs

Consider these kinds of conversations as icebergs, we only see the tip of an iceberg but the bulk of what is happening is below the water line.  Tips for raising the icebergs include:

  • Ask! We know from physics, energy isn’t created or destroyed, only redistributed.  As adults, when we have something on our minds it takes from the task at hand and the same is true for children.  Try asking what they know, what they want to know and what they need in that moment.
  • Give yourself permission not to have the answers. Acknowledging that you do not know what to say but that you want to listen gives permission for children to express their feelings and know they will be heard.
  • Make an agreement. Children often believe we see and hear everything.  Therefore if someone makes a hurtful comment and children do not see us respond, they feel alone.  Try asking “What would help you when you think I heard something but you didn’t see me respond?”
  • Name the team. Ask children to think about who they could talk to about these concerns? At home? At school?
  • This is a safe place to discuss… create a list with them of safe topics… leaving room to add more as needed.
  • Time to think. Give yourself time to ask others, reflect and breath.  Letting a child know a question is so important it needs consideration is a thoughtful way to handle a challenge.  In such cases, getting back to the child in a timely manner is essential.
  • Seek resources
  • Follow-up as needed
  • Set times to talk
  • Own your mistakes, setting the example of making an authentic apology is a gift to your child.
  • Partner with your child. Most of us were not taught how to have these conversations and because we fear making mistakes we do not begin them.  Convey your goals of making them feel comfortable and supported.  Ask for a partnership where you will create opportunities for them to talk and they will let you know if they need something different from you.
  • Identify when the bucket is full. Ask “What will help you when you become upset?  Who will you talk to?  How are you taking care of yourself?  What do you need to focus on the task at hand?”
  • Take a deep breath and allow yourself time. Talking about a challenging topic when you are emotionally stricken will not help your children.  Try telling the group you want to hear their thoughts and have your own feelings about it so in order not to mix the two up you will assign a writing or video journal project with the topic being something along the lines of “I wish…”
  • Follow-up with your children to check in and see how they are doing.
  • Find a partner. If flying with a child, the flight attendants will remind us to put on our oxygen mask first because we cannot help our child if we are not taking care of yourself.  As educators and parents, we should have someone to call for advice or to download. Using this resource takes care of you and models for your children the importance of having a team.
  • Remember sometimes children need silence to process a discussion/topic
  • My favorite strategy is one question, one sentence, one more question, one more sentence and so on. When a child asks a question on a challenging topic, answer in one sentence and then allow for another question, with one more sentence until the topic is exhausted.  Often we address our own anxiety with too many words which may confuse your child and may not address what they really want to know.

3 Reasons Why Trump’s Election is a Good Thing for Studentslead_960

By Avery Lawrence, DCschoolHUB Correspondent

I’m not a Trump fan. I do not share his platform or pronounced beliefs. I voted for Clinton. This piece isn’t about my views on President-Elect Trump. It’s about how needed this was for today’s students. For the sake of this article “students” will be defined as those savvy enough to have an intelligent understanding of the world we live(d) in. So, ages 13-22 (yes, I’m including college students).

  1. Get politically active. A friend of mine told me a story about his second day of student teaching. It was 9/11/01. He just finished his first class of day two and was with his mentor teacher in the break room. My friend was asked why he wanted to teach social studies. He explained he loved history and felt that kids today didn’t appreciate history because nothing historical happened in their lifetime. He told his mentor it would take a major event for them to take notice of what’s going on in the world and how it effects current conditions. Just then another teacher burst into the break room and said that a plane crashed into a building in NYC…The mentor teacher still tells the story to friends and colleagues as does my friend. True story.

The events of 9/11 made hero’s out of every day people. Whether they rushed into a burning skyscraper, signed up for the military that week, or helped bring down a plane destined for the White House. But in 15 short years our youth have become less and less political and happy to live life in their iBubble.

    1. It’s time for the privileged youth to feel uncomfortable. When was the last time you woke up wondering when you’d have your next meal? How about a time where you worried about your village being destroyed by war? Let’s face it. For the most part the privileged youth will inherit the country. If they made it through high school and college without having to experience societal discomfort why would they possibly look to change all that is wrong with our society. And that’s just here at home. Atrocities take place every day that have ZERO effect on US citizens. While I will not compare 9/11 to a Trump presidency on the holy crap-o-meter. The fact is, 9/11 was just one day. President Trump will be at least 1,459 days.


  1. Real life is right now. The question every teacher dreads: when am I going to use this in the real world. Well, the real world just got a lot realer, didn’t it? Trump says he will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. I’m still trying to figure out where the money is coming from, where the wall will actually be built, how high, what will it be made of, how will it affect wildlife along the wall line…and those are just a few I thought of in minutes.

So teachers, here’s a great cross-curricular project to throw at the kids. Have them plan a wall as president and figure out how to actually make it work. The best part is they can start to understand that great work doesn’t always have a finished product. I’m sure they’ll learn that it’s virtually impossible to create.

My hope is that the scare of a tyrannical president is enough to push students into the real, real world and that President Trump turns out to be a better human and leader than he has portrayed himself to be…his whole adult life.

The Students Are Watchingmoral-compass

By Neal M. Brown, Ed.D., Head of Green Acres School

I’ve been reluctant to write about the election, because it is hard frankly to know where to begin. As educators, we are focused on helping our students make sense of the world and their place in it. With this election, as we’ve read in the previous few blog posts, we’re experiencing unique and substantial challenges in guiding our students’ understanding and thinking. As progressive educators, we’re particularly focused on helping our students to develop an openness to others’ perspectives, to practice kindness and civility with friends and enemies alike, to demonstrate respect for everyone, to see differences as strengths, and to focus more on someone’s ideas than on their appearance, social standing, or bank account. It’s been difficult but not impossible to continue to impart these messages in the face of the daily messages and images we have been inundated with over these many months.

Our school’s mission statement calls that we “challenge and inspire” our students to “live and learn” with “compassion,” among other traits. We expect our students to demonstrate integrity and honesty—and we seek to cultivate in them ethical behavior both through their daily experiences in our inclusive, democratic community and through our explicit focus on proactively teaching “character” and on reactively addressing breaches as they naturally arise.

Of course our challenge as a community, in addition to making sense of the behaviors our children have witnessed in this year’s political drama, is making sure that we are practicing what we preach and setting an example worthy of our children. Ted and Nancy Sizer addressed this vital challenge for schools in The Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract. Here they laid out the simple but powerful premise that character education must be an intrinsic part of every successful school—and that a school community’s daily routines and habits, most notably how people treat one another, matter more than any specific lessons given about respect, honesty, or integrity.

This year our students have definitely been watching us and watching what is going on around us. They are seeing that adults don’t always tell the truth or treat one another with respect or kindness. Ideally, the experiences that we are giving students are serving as a powerful counterbalance and giving them the ethical and intellectual habits and tools they’ll need both to thrive and to contribute.