Making Sense of the News

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dear parents,
While we work hard not to overwhelm you with extra e-traffic, I feel compelled by the tragic events in Paris on Friday to reach out to you today.

How do we respond to this horrible news?  And how do we relay the facts of it to our children in a way that sets a healthy tone within our families and our school community?

One of the key precepts of Waldorf education is that during the precious first seven years of life we are actively cultivating an image of the world as good and beautiful for our children.  We want these children to be happy that they have arrived here to live their lives now.  Of course, as they grow older they will become aware of all of the difficulties this world holds for them and for human kind.  But for a brief interval, we work to keep suffering at bay as best we can.

I ask that you join me in protecting the innocence of the youngest members of our school community.  Children of kindergarten age or younger, as well as those in the lower school grades, should be protected as much as possible from knowledge of an event such as the tragedy in Paris. Please ask your older children not to discuss their knowledge of the situation at school, to protect the youngest and those who don’t yet know. If your younger children do hear about it, then they should be spared the details if at all possible. If you are in a family with only very young children, this should be possible at home by eliminating any media use around the children, and by not leaving newspapers or magazines where they can be seen casually.

If your child asks you about the event, the first thing is to stay calm. Ask them what they know about it, rather than telling them more. Don’t focus on trying to answer “why”, but listen to their feelings, and provide reassurance that they will be safe.  Please give only age-appropriate information, without belaboring the details.  Even older students do not need to know all of the grisly details.

Thank you for being conscious of your own speaking: be aware of what you are saying and who might be nearby listening.   Meanwhile, make sure to take care of your own feelings of grief, anger, frustration, despair by gathering with other adults to seek comfort and companionship as needed.

By upholding the principle of tending to the needs of our youngest students first, we can collectively bring healing and hope to our community and the larger world.

In gratitude for the gift that each of you is to our school,

--originally published as a letter to our school community on Nov. 16, 2015