From When Tragedy Strikes
(which is about "critical incidents", events that "[challenge] the very heart of a school community, its identity and its coping mechanisms," and is thus probably way more than is needed):
❐ You cannot get it right all the time, but how you deal with mistakes is important.
Be humble and ask how things could have been said or done differently.
❐ If you are unsure what to say or do, it is alright to ask the child what s/he needs.
❐ Be respectful of the child’s privacy. If you need to talk about the incident to staff
and pupils discuss it with the child in the first instance.
❐ Never force a child talk about an incident but creating opportunities for doing
so is important.
❐ Never make a child draw or write specifically about an incident but create
opportunities for doing so by choosing general titles and giving choice.
❐ Wherever possible, take the focus off a distressed child by generalising and
drawing in other children’s stories and experiences.
❐ Don’t rush, let the child be your guide. Use age appropriate language.
❐ Children do not want to be constantly observed and analysed – they soon know
when every action is being watched.
❐ Check you know what a child’s question is really about, keep answers simple,
check their understanding and encourage future questions.
❐ Deal with fantasies not based on fact. Don’t misinform or use euphemisms. Be
sensitive to the fact that parents often do because of distress or ignorance.
Parents may need to be helped to deal with problems created for both the child
and teacher as a result of misinformation.
❐ Be genuine – don’t act. If you can’t cope with distress, acknowledge this and
offer to help find someone who can cope.
❐ Be matter-of-fact, avoid confusion, talk in concrete terms not abstract terms.
❐ Watch for opportunities within ordinary class work where coping and support
can be reinforced and problems anticipated. This work is often very opportunistic and low-key.
❐ Don’t be afraid to mention the name of a dead sibling or friend as children
notice when you do this. By mentioning the dead, children will know that they
are significant and will not be forgotten should they die.
❐ Use your own support systems to discuss any problems, uncertainties and distress.
❐ Ask children what helps and what doesn’t