An open classroom discussion also lets students know they aren’t alone in their feelings, that others have good ideas to share, and that together they can get through this change. It can also help you determine which students are struggling more than others.

Approach these discussions with the appropriate language for the age and stage of your students.

1. All generations face huge and devastating challenges. 

And always, the way we get through challenges is together. People help each other out at times like this. Some people get scared and pull in, but we survive because so many people keep helping out. First in line are the medical people who will work SO hard for SO many extra hours on our behalf, and they don’t even know us! Whoever they are and whoever we are, when we show up, they help. But we also have people who work in warehouses that will keep food coming, people who are keeping electricity on, people who are keeping systems and supplies moving. 

2. When we have gratitude, we have less fear. 

It is focusing on “the other” side of the coin.  The same is true for anxiety.  When we focus on love, especially on letting our hearts feel what it is like to be with people who love us, our anxiety level tends to decrease.   Suggest that kids start a gratitude journal that they write in at least daily, or in the morning and again before bed.  Prompts:  One thing I look forward to today and one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.

3. Talk about fear, but from a reasoned tone that puts fear in its place. 

Fear has a role in our lives. It wakes us up look around to see whether there is something we should do to keep ourselves safe. Once you’ve done what you can, it isn’t helpful. So normalize that we all have fear at different times in our lives, and that we wouldn’t be here if our ancestors didn’t have fear when they needed to take steps toward safety. They did, and that’s why we’re here.  Fear is hardwired in our brains so that when things are out of synch, we sit up, take notice and take action.

Parents are going to be stressed about all kinds of things as well, and remind kids that parents know it is their job to take care of kids, so we don’t want kids to be more worried than they need to be by their parents’ fears.  “Let them do the worrying.”

Almost every flu and cold we get was once like this. A bacteria or virus migrated from an animal and then as people got it the first time around, it made a greater number of people sick because nobody had ever had that particular virus before, but after a while the population become more resilient.  Years from now, it may be that COVID-19 virus will be just another flu or cold like we’re used to having every winter.  There are always some people who get really sick and some people who die, and we have vaccines that help.

4. Brainstorm a list of all the people who are working out of our view who will help get us through this time. 

List them visually as students come up with ideas. Medical staff is an obvious one, but all of the people who are a part of keeping the food coming to the stores… warehouse workers, truck drivers, people who are now planting crops for this year, people who keep the utilities going, mail deliverers.  When the idea generation slows down, take the list and look at who works to keep those folks going…  truck mechanics, mail sorters, gas station attendants, and so on.