Helping kids cope with tragedy

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week has been felt by people across the country. It has sparked emotions for people young and old. Dr. Susan G.  Weinberger, President of Mentor Consulting Group, has spent her career researching the impact of mentors on young people, shared wonderful advice earlier this week. She gave us permission to post what she had to say. This serves as a good reminder of what mentors can do in any tragic situation–whether it be at the national or personal level.

Many  young people today are blessed to be surrounded not only by caring parents but  also by formal and informal mentors in their lives. For those youth who are in  mentoring relationships, it is important for mentors to know what their role is  and is not in terms of helping their mentees get through crises like the  horrific mass murders in Newtown, CT, a small community of 27,000 just 15 miles  from mine. Mentors are not professionals. They are not teachers, psychologists,  doctors or members of the clergy. Typically their role is to serve as a guide  and friend to a young person, a positive role model and cheerleader. The key  role of a mentor is as an advocate.  

Parents  should tell their kids they love them and hug them tighter and shelter them from  24/7 media coverage. Mentors, on the other hand can help to get mentees back to  a routine, give them time to play which is so popular when mentoring younger  youth, answer their questions honestly and ask them “how are you doing? What can  I do to help you?”

Watch for any changes in the mentee’s demeanor or behavior or  if there are indications of being unhappy. In the role of advocate, mentors can  reassure mentees, give them the time and attention they need and help them to  return to a normal routine during their mentoring sessions. Do more of what  mentors and mentees often do anyway: take a walk together, read together, draw  and engage in arts and crafts activities, play games and allow time if they do  not want to talk. If mentors have concerns about their mentees, don’t dismiss  them. Seek the resources of the school or community to help depending on the  location of the mentoring relationship.

Finally,  Mr. Fred Rogers an icon for children in America for more than four decades once  said “Good trumps evil.” Pointing out the good in this world and the many who  want to help when such tragedies occur may be consoling and calming. I hope so.  I pray so.


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