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Manual of Articles Sections 15 - 27
We have developed a strategic model for school counselors to prepare students to cope in an age of terrorism. This model includes six steps and is a preventive, developmental tool to be implemented in its entirety as a step-by-step training model in an ongoing guidance curriculum. This model is designed to alleviate fear of terrorism and to strengthen students' resilience in the event of an actual terrorist act within or outside of the school community. In the event of an actual terrorist act, the model then becomes an intervention as the skills previously learned are applied. At the point of an actual event, the model is to be used more as an integration of skills rather than sequential steps.
Step 1: Staying reality based. The first step is to build a reality-based foundation by being honest and factual about current concerns and events (ASCA, 2003). This attitude and understanding will provide reassurance to students while also being honest with them about the possible events and procedures necessary if an event occurs. A major focus should be on developing a feeling of safety within the students. This includes the description of safety measures that may need to be taken. Explain the school safety procedures in the event of any acts of violence and terrorism within the school or community and provide information about any community-based resources and/or crisis plans in the event of terrorist activity. Students also may benefit from suggested precautions to be taken at home or in the community. Adolescents and young adults may be able to take an active role in providing safety measures in their communities and homes. School counselors need to remember to be honest without being fearful or invoking fear in students.
Step 2: Expressing emotions. The second strategy is to acknowledge the feelings of students and to provide help in allowing them to express and understand the intensity of their emotions. The American Psychological Association's (APA, 2004) Reactions and Guidelines for Children Following Trauma/ Disaster states that students need to be encouraged to talk about confusing feelings and be allowed opportunities to express thoughts and emotions about the tragedy. In addition, students should be reminded that their reactions are normal following a very scary event (APA). Knowing and understanding the impact of emotions enables one to integrate thought, feeling, and action. This may help students to develop their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence describes one's knowledge and capacity to understand and process emotions experienced in daily life (Advanced Communications, 2003). This step is intended to increase the student's emotional quotient (EQ). The term emotional quotient was coined by Bar-On (2000) to distinguish emotional intelligence from cognitive intelligence (IQ). Elksnin and Elksnin (2003) discussed the five domains of EQ, as outlined by Goleman (1995) and Mayer and Salovey (1997), as (a) knowing one's emotions, (b) managing one's emotions, (c) motivating oneself, (d) recognizing emotions of others, and (e) effectively using social skills when interacting with others. These areas of emotional intelligence will help students to understand and express their feelings and those of others in the face of fears. Children as young as 3 years of age can begin to understand the underlying causes of their emotions (Elksnin & Elksnin). A suggestion, in line with this step, might be to use a visual aid such as a "feeling thermometer" to gauge the level of emotion. The counselor could provide a listing of emotions to help students expand their emotional vocabulary. Younger students also could "act out" the emotion that they are feeling. Rating scales may be used with older students. This step in the model is a training step and also is to be used as an intervention step in an actual crisis. Helping students to express their emotions is basic to successful coping with a fearful incident.
Step 3: Developing concepts of life and death. It is helpful to encourage students to discuss their perceptions about life and death with parents or community leaders. The school counselor is in the position to teach students about grief and loss issues and to prepare them for acceptance when experiencing loss. Children's understanding of death is based upon their developmental stage. Young children under the age of 5 usually see death as "reversible, temporary, and impersonal" (Hospice Net, 2004). Children ages 5-9 begin to see death as final and understand that all living things must die, but they believe that they personally can escape death. They begin to associate death with images such as a skeleton or the "angel of death." Ten-year-old children understand that death is irreversible and that all living things must die, including them. Adolescents may become intrigued with the concept of death and may begin developing philosophical beliefs about death (NASP, n.d.). According to Mishara (1999), if children have experienced death in the immediate family, their concept of death is more mature. In coping with life's inexplicable happenings, children need to have the opportunity and freedom to discuss their personal perceptions with a caring adult. This type of discussion may serve to comfort the child and is certainly within the role of a well-trained and competent school counselor. Curriculum guides such as Growing Through Grief: A K-12 Curriculum to Help Young People Through All Kinds of Loss (O'Toole, 1989) are useful in this step.
Step 4: Developing self-efficacy and a sense of control. The fourth step is to employ various methods of empowering students so that they are able to develop a sense of control over their immediate environment (Kleinke, 1991). Gray and Ropeik (2002) stated that the ability to feel control over events decreases the level of fear. Three constructs have been described that enable children to feel confident in controlling events and challenges in their lives. These constructs are self-worth, security, and control (Robinson & Rotter, 1991). Students who feel personally powerful are less vulnerable to fear. Personal power can be achieved through having been given opportunities to make decisions. Also, helping students to focus on the present and future, rather than the past, will enable them to see possibilities for change, which is empowering (Sklare, 1997). Providing children with opportunities for developing self-efficacy, competence, and mastery enables them to learn that they can have an effect on their social and physical surroundings (Kleinke).
Step 5: Developing coping skills. The fifth step involves teaching and practicing the use of the various coping skills needed to deal with the stressors encountered in today's world (Kleinke, 1991). Breslin (2005) stated that educators can foster the development of coping skills in young children through heightened sensory awareness, positive expectations, a clear understanding of one's strengths relating to accomplishment, and developing a sense of humor. Taking action is among the coping skills helpful to strengthen students' sense of self-control. Sklare (1997) wrote, "Getting clients to take action first shows them that they are able to succeed regardless of previous obstacles" (p. 14). Action and movement help overcome a feeling of helplessness that often arises from fear. The use of play interventions for small group and individual counseling in the school setting has been encouraged by researchers and recommended for use with elementary-aged children suffering from trauma (Drewes, Carry, & Schaefer, 2001). Ways to express emotions and feelings and cope with experiences are discussed in play intervention literature. Included among several recommendations made to school counselors by Shen and Sink (2002) are sand trays, toy ambulances, police cars, airplanes, stress-reducing materials, squishy balls, chalkboards, white boards, musical instruments, and dress-up costumes. Adolescents and young adults may benefit from such activities as writing a letter to an editor or collecting money or clothing for victims.
Step 6: Encouraging action by engagement in humanitarian efforts. The last step involves developing a humanitarian view, taking action, and expressing that action in a humanitarian effort. In order to aid students in the assimilation of knowledge as related to acts of terrorism, the development of a larger picture of the world in which they live is helpful. Acquiring a global perspective may be attained by an understanding of the three basic concepts of humanitarian education as defined by the Polish Humanitarian Organization (PHO, 2002): (a) human rights, (b) tolerance, and (c) helping others. The PHO has created a program for regular schools in Poland that emphasizes social responsibility and humanitarian work. Its humanitarian education program is built upon the belief that children and adolescents can actively influence positive changes in society. School counselors might wish to review this program and/or develop a similar approach for use with local schools and communities. It can be beneficial to discuss and employ methods that enable students to be seen as a humanitarian in their existing worldview. The Exploring Humanitarian Law project was initiated by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1998. The purpose of the project was to provide core learning modules for students ages 13-18 in the areas of citizenship and ethics education. The goal of the project was to integrate education in humanitarian law into secondary curricula around the world. Tawil (2003) stated that the education of students in humanitarian law (a) motivates an increased interest level in international current events and humanitarian action; (b) increases the ability to view conflicts at home from a humanitarian perspective; and (c) creates increased involvement in community service, which promotes humanitarian attitudes. One way to promote awareness of human rights, anti-racism, and the value of community action is through classroom guidance lessons. Using the school community as a model and making changes in the school that reflect humanitarian perspectives can provide a greater understanding and, perhaps, an incentive for students to make similar changes in their homes and communities in which they live. An example of a humanitarian action led by the school counselor following classroom guidance is a school-sponsored clothing closet and/or food bank for the community. Students at the middle and high school levels could operate the bank. Elementary-level students could be involved in helping to supply the food and clothing. Resources outside of the school such as business partners could be utilized to aid the counselor and students in these efforts. Schools would respond to the community based upon the needs of their community. In addition, local community agencies and churches may be available to the counselor in providing humanitarian education to students.
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