My View: How to help students cope with change
When students return to Miramonte Elementary School on Thursday, they will be met by a new staff.
February 9th, 2012
07:02 AM ET

My View: How to help students cope with change

Courtesy National PTA By Betsy Landers, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:  Betsy Landers is president of the National PTA.

There is no excuse for the child abuse that the police say happened at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. The National PTA joins parents everywhere in shock and outrage, especially those families directly affected.

The protection of children in all school settings is a fundamental right and of the utmost priority for the National PTA. A safe environment is crucial to learning, and every child in every city deserves to feel safe in school.

Miramonte administrators have replaced the faculty and staff, a move they believe will keep children safe. Students will return Thursday to new teachers and the presence of social workers. While promoting a safer environment, this move also creates a tremendous amount of change, which can interrupt the learning process.

Students will have to adjust. As with many experiences, parents can and should play a key role in helping the children cope with the change. What can parents do?

Rebuild trust. These children might feel like they experienced a broken trust from the previous staff, and now they are meeting people they don’t know. Parents should visit the school with them and meet the new teachers and staff.

Manage feelings. There are specific things you can do to help your child maintain a positive mood, such as exercising, eating small treats and listening to or making music. Also, making a list of all the positive things they can think of, even the smallest, can stimulate positive feelings.

Be a role model. Show your child the ways you handle change and maintain a positive attitude. Talk about how you feel during times of change and about what you do to cope. If you are confident about an upcoming change, chances are your child will be positive, too.

Talk about it. Talk about what will happen, why it’s happening and what to expect. Acknowledge your child’s worries and fears and respond sympathetically. Allow children to feel angry, sad and confused. It’s a normal reaction, and your child needs to be allowed to express these feelings.

Stay healthy. The healthier and better rested a child feels, the easier it is to withstand everyday stress and to handle change. Make sure your child eats well, gets plenty of exercise and gets enough sleep.

Maintain routines. Knowing what to expect helps your child feel grounded and secure, especially during times of transition. Try to keep other changes to a minimum for a time.

Be available. If a child has a hard time adjusting, parents need to be more available than usual and must try to simplify family life so that they can focus on the child’s needs.

Write. Encourage your child to write in a journal about worries or changes. All children express themselves differently.

Finally, parents can take action for school and child safety everywhere to try to prevent such things from happening. However, safety is not just a one-time training workshop or a discussion at a school board meeting. School safety is much like family engagement - it’s an ongoing process of creating a real partnership between families, schools and the local community. The National PTA stands ready to help create these partnerships to ensure that all children have a safe place to learn and grow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Betsy Landers.

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Filed under: Elementary school • Issues • Policy • Practice • Voices
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. iPad Video

    Beautifull style Thanks, webmaster.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:55 am |
  2. How to Los

    Didn�t realise there was this sort of info out there

    February 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  3. Tia

    I love how the majority of opinions expressed here are basically saying to stay with your children while in school or participating in events. These must be the parents, who have the luxury to be a stay-at-home mother (or father) and be so deeply involved in the learning process. Sorry to break it to you but while you're being a stay at home, or working your wonderful part-time job to keep up your manicure, the rest of American households have two parents working outside the home to maintain this "American Dream", we speak so fondly of. Now, I am not saying not to be involved, just tone down the judgement when a parent is not ever at little Timmy's soccer practice for the entire fall season because they work 40+hours a week to feed Timmy after soccer practice.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  4. DD

    I agree parents should ALWAYS be involved. The scarcity of involvement is such a shame, and I understand work demands, I had them too. What I didn't like was the WILLFUL ignoring, even for just ONE conference to meet & say hello. To those people who are "parents", who do you think REALLY teaches your kids?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Joe T.

      In my experience there is only one way to get parents to show up to those meetings. That is to provide free food.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  5. qwerty

    How to help children deal with change? Don't suddenly change every fricking thing at once with likely the most minimal of explanations.

    All these kids are going to know is some teachers were doing "bad stuff" and suddenly every single one of their teachers is gone, they put 1+1 together and "oh, so my teacher was doing bad stuff" and you've destroyed their image of any teacher they've ever had.

    Congratulations.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  6. Tony Minich

    There is a delicate handshake that needs to occur when your children are in school. Teachers need to work together, hand-in-hand, for the children's best interests.

    We dealt with a high school in Southeast PA where a special ed teacher was allowed to run roughshod over her student's parents because they never got involved. This teacher had an overinflated ego and felt that everything was "her highway or the highway". When she was reported to her district, the only answer the district had was "she loves her students".

    So, to avoid crimes like the Miramonte School and incidents like the PA special ed teacher, be involved in your child's school. If you know that what you are doing is right, stand up for yourself and be willing to escalate it, if necessary. Neither the teacher nor the parent is always right, but both sides should hold each other accountable. Evidently this didn't happen at Miramonte.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Tony Minich

      In the first paragraph, I meant to say teachers should work, hand-in-hand, with the parents for the children's best interests.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  7. Dawn

    I thing parents should be involved in there school ,meet the teacher and volurnteer in the classroom , and if there in sports or what ever they may be doing be involved no whats going on.stay with your child during sport 's .....

    February 9, 2012 at 10:10 am |