“Teachers can’t afford to be afraid of opening a can of worms.  It is true that we need to choose words very, very carefully.  But it is possible to address children’s burning concerns in a way that makes room for all the children’s experiences.” (From Use Your Words by Carol Garhart Mooney)  

Have you ever changed the topic so you didn’t have to address divorce, incarceration, death, job loss, or new baby?

Teachers can begin by asking questions like: “Why do you think so?”  “What do you know about that?”  Teachers can also frame different views of the situation for all the children by giving information. For example, saying something like, “Sometimes dogs get sick or hurt.  Sometimes, old dogs die. We miss them when they are gone.  It’s ok to talk about them. Does anyone else know of a pet that died?”

“My dog, Cooper when he died and went to live with Uncle Mike.”

Remember children will make meaning out of what they experience with or without our help.  Isn’t it better to help them if we can?


Have you ever heard someone tell a young child to use “walking feet” only to see them run down the hall?  Or “keep your hands to yourself” only to see them touch everything they pass.  What’s happening, are they listening and just disregarding what you say?  Maybe they don’t understand what you are saying… of course they are keeping hands to themselves their hands can’t come off! Yes, they see feet that walk, but they can also run! When talking with young children remember to use direct language. ” Will, I noticed that you walked quietly and safely in the hall like we practiced.”  Using direct language conveys a belief that children will choose positive behaviors.  It conveys caring for the child.  Listen to yourself and those around you…notice how many times we say things and children respond in unexpected ways…”We don’t hit at school”  (Yes we do, watch this!) Next time use the direct approach and see what happens.