Difficult Conversations

The past few years have been full of difficult conversations.  The pandemic, of course, is the first thing that comes to mind.  Out of the pandemic came discussions of jobs, money, vaccinations, safety; just to name a few.  Right now we are dealing with a crisis in Ukraine.  These uncomfortable yet important topics follow one after the other.  

Where to start?

As a teacher, it is hard to know how, when or if to have these conversations.  We don’t want to add excess worry to the lives of children, but we also want our students to be aware of what is going on in the world.  We also don’t know if the subject has been discussed at home or if parents don’t want their children exposed to the information.  It’s a fine line to walk.

One way to make this situation easier is to have open lines of communication with the parents in your classroom.  Teachers need to build a sense of trust so that parents feel that the teacher will share the important information with students in a respectful, safe fashion.  If the lines of communication aren’t strong, parents may not want or will not trust that the teacher can have these difficult conversations.

Age appropriate discussions

Another thing to consider is the age of the students in the class.  Older elementary students will probably have an awareness and understanding of these difficult topics that younger children will not have.  Parents may feel that the older elementary children need to know or can understand what is going on in the world.  This age group may feel the need to do something to help the situation in their own way.

Younger children may not have the capacity to understand difficult situations so the information conveyed to them will be at a more simplistic level.  Instead of sharing information that may be scary or that parents don’t want their children to be exposed to a discussion at their level is more appropriate.  For instance, during the pandemic, younger children didn’t need to know what the death toll was each day, but they did need to know that washing their hands and having a personal bubble space around them was very important.  

Older elementary age students could understand how Ukraine was not a safe place to be so families had to move somewhere where it was safe.  It could be explained that children had to leave their schools and when they went to a safer place, the schools they went to spoke a different language.  They could then discuss and/or write about how they would feel in that situation.  These difficult conversations can happen as long as thought and care are put into how they are delivered.

Plan ahead

The best way to approach these difficult conversations is to do so with planning and care.  Teachers can reach out to parents and explain that the topic will be discussed in a respectful, safe manner.  An easy way to link parents with the classroom is by using the parent communication feature in EZStickerbook; it is great way to bridge the communication divide.  Teachers can send a class announcement about a topic that will be discussed or they can send individual messages to specific families.  Parents, in turn, can message back about how they feel about discussion topics, such as opting out or in support.  It makes it a much more personalized communication experience. It is quicker, easier, and more direct than an email.

If parents want their child to opt out of the conversation, alternative plans can be made for those particular students.  You don’t want any students or parents to be uncomfortable with the topic discussed in class. The classroom should always be a safe haven for students no matter what the conversation.

 Kim LaCoste

Kim LaCoste

Kim LaCoste has worked in early childhood education for over 30 years. She has a BS in Elementary Education, a MS in Early Childhood Education and a CAGS in School Leadership. When not in her kindergarten classroom, she likes to read, spend time with her dogs, go to the beach and spend time with her son and husband. Using technology in her classroom is one of her passions.