A Message Regarding the Attacks in Sri Lanka
April 23rd, 2019
On Easter Sunday, we awoke to news of yet another senseless attack in Sri Lanka, that has left over 300 people dead and several others wounded. We stand together in grieving this tragedy with our Christian community and those affected.
We are a school district for all of Waterloo Region, no matter what your background or beliefs. We are committed to ensuring our schools and communities are safe, caring and inclusive spaces where each student, staff member, family and community member feel valued. We want everyone in our schools to experience a deep sense of belonging and acceptance.
It is essential that we all pay attention to how we greet and connect with each other in the coming days. We must all watch, listen, reach out and show that we care about one another.
Support is available for anyone who is feeling vulnerable – at any time. Please encourage anyone who is struggling to seek out that support by talking to a friend, a parent, a teacher or a colleague.
I am grateful that we are a community that supports and cares for each other, and that we can lean on one another in times like this.
Director of Education
SUPPORT & GUIDANCE
It can be difficult to know how to respond to these events. To help students, parents and staff, we are providing some simple guidelines that you can use to inform your conversations over the coming days.
Guidance for students
- You belong here and we care about you – each and every one.
- You are part of a strong school community that comes together when any among us feels afraid or vulnerable.
- If you need to talk, reach out to a trusted adult at school, home, or in your community.
- If someone reaches out to you, listen.
- Pay special attention to how you treat others this week, especially those who may be questioning how they belong.
- Be kind, be welcoming, and include everyone.
Guidance for elementary student parents/guardians
- People are talking about these events, so recognize that children may become concerned that something bad will happen to them, their family or friends. Explain that safety measures are in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take care of them.
- If your child is not focused on the events, do not dwell on them. Try to avoid having detailed adult conversations regarding the tragedy in front of children. However, be available to answer questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behaviour or social interactions.
- Limit exposure to media coverage. Images of a disaster or crisis can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Young children, in particular, may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. Older children may choose to watch the news; be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
- Maintain normal family routines as much as possible. Routine family activities, classes and friends can help children feel more secure.
- Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith leaders and mental health counsellors can help. Let your children know you are sad. You will be better able to support them if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.
Guidance for secondary student parents/guardians
- Bring up the topic at a time and place where a discussion can occur. If there are distractions, a shortage of time or if either you or your teen is too tired or busy, it is likely the conversation will not be completed. If your teen is not focused on the tragedy, do not dwell on it. However, be available to answer questions to the best of your ability.
- It is normal for people to try to make sense of things when a serious loss occurs. Allow your teen to share his or her ideas and speculations. Help them to separate what they know from what they are guessing about.
- Limit exposure to media coverage. Images of a disaster or crisis can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Teenagers may choose to watch the news—be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
- Maintain normal family routines as much as possible. Routine family activities, classes and friends can help children and teens feel more secure.
- Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith leaders and mental health counsellors can help. Let your teen know you are sad. You will be better able to support them if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.
After a tragic incident, it can be difficult to know what to do to support children and youth who have been affected or influenced by these events. You may observe that students appear upset, sad, anxious or tired, and/or you may notice a range of physical complaints. Reactions will vary according to students’ development stage, physical or emotional proximity to the event, and prior experience with traumatic circumstances.
In the days, and sometimes weeks, following a tragic event, these reactions are not uncommon and typically will subside over time as students have an opportunity to talk through feelings, to be reassured that they are safe and protected, and to gain perspective.
To provide needed support for your students, remember that you need to engage in your own self-care. Tragic events affect individuals in different ways, and you are not immune to the impact of these circumstances. Take time to process your thoughts and emotions with colleagues, friends, family, or using professional mental health assistance as needed, so that you are able to be present and helpful to students. Please remember there are resources available to you via Employee Wellness.
Guidance for Educators
- As a caring adult in students’ lives, there are many ways you can provide support:
- Maintain a calm classroom environment
- Support students as they work through strong feelings after a tragic event, in the course of daily school life
- Notice when a student is struggling and may require additional support
- Offer classroom accommodations to students struggling with social-emotional concerns after a tragic event
- Assist struggling students and their families to access more intensive support, as needed
Guidance for Staff
- Take the opportunity to process the situation and your feelings with your friends, family and colleagues
- Keep regular schedules and routines
- Remember to eat, sleep, play, exercise, and laugh
- Practice positive ways of coping with sadness, fear, anger, and worry
- Ask for help. This is not an experience that you have to face alone.