Monday, November 27, 2023

How to Talk with Kids About the War in Gaza and Israel


The news coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has shown war crimes on full display. These images, which include injured and dead children, are very disturbing, especially for young people. We understand that the war is very contentious with crimes against humanity being committed on both sides. Despite our thoughts on who is to blame, it is important to focus on the need for humanity when discussing this with kids. 

Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., is the Parenting Program Director of the Greater Good Science Center. She is a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships and children’s development of prosocial behaviors. In her article, How to Talk with Kids About the War in Gaza and Israel, (originally published by the Greater Good Science Center), she writes:

Parents and families across the world have been distressed by the war in Gaza and Israel. Those who are there (or who are connected to the people of the region) may grieve for loved ones who have been killed or fear harm and devastation. Parents everywhere struggle to understand what’s happening and how to feel about it, and to talk with our kids about the images as well as the absence of humanity and compassion they see in the news and on social media. 

In previous global conflicts, Greater Good turned to two researchers to gain insights about how to talk with kids about humanitarian crises. Abigail Gewirtz is a professor of psychology at Arizona State University; Shauna Tominey is a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University. Here are six tips adapted from two Greater Good articles about their work: “How to Talk with Kids About Scary News” and “Five Tips for Talking with Kids About What’s Going On in the World.” 

1. Tend to your own needs- “It’s not until you recognize what your stress level is—how you are feeling—that you are really able to help anybody else,” says Gewirtz. As we search for wise words to help our children make sense of violence and inhumanity, we, too, need to acknowledge our heartbreak. Find ways to connect with your community of friends and loved ones and receive their compassionate support. 

2. Seek to understand more deeply and listen- “Taking time to go beyond the headlines and learn more can build our knowledge and understanding of a topic so that we can feel comfortable talking with children in a way that is developmentally appropriate, as well as clearing up misconceptions,” says Tominey. 

Once you know more about the context of the conflict and feel more prepared to have a conversation, you can invite your child to tell you what they’ve been hearing or wondering about it. Listen attentively to their thoughts and questions. Be curious and make space for them to keep sharing their perspective with you. 

3. Be humble and honest- “Even if you don’t have an answer to a question, talk together about strategies to look up information from sources you trust, and about what makes a source reliable,” says Tominey. 

Look for news sources that go beyond your bubble and that represent holistic perspectives. Teach your children how to be critical consumers of news and to seek out different viewpoints that represent an assortment of voices. Show them how to be aware of misinformation, which has been rampant on social media. 

Source: Greater Good Science Center
4. Prioritize humanity- While war is one of the most traumatic parts of the news right now, our conversations with our children about Gaza, Palestine, and Israel do not only have to be about this moment. We can talk to our children about individual people from these places and their life stories. 

“Your children will have friends, classmates, and community members now and in the future with diverse identities and from diverse backgrounds,” says Tominey. “Through these conversations, we can help teach children that the identities and cultural traditions each person carries are just as important to them as yours are to you.” 

Help children understand that all people have inherent worth so that they come to see themselves and others as global citizens–all of whom strive to live in dignity. 

5. Help your children to take compassionate action- “The really important thing for parents to understand is that, just like us, children need to feel that there is something they can do,” says Gewirtz. “All of us feel more awful if we feel totally helpless—and our children are no exception.” 

For example, some children may want to find ways to donate to humanitarian organizations that are helping to provide aid. Older children may want to participate in marches to express themselves non-violently. 

6. Be a haven for children to navigate their emotions- “Let them know that all feelings are OK,” says Tominey. “Help your child express their feelings in healthy ways, such as by talking about them; sharing feelings through stories, artwork, and play; taking a walk; or in other ways.” 

While violence and intergenerational trauma are realities of our world, nurturing a loving space for our children’s emotions can help them learn that compassion is, too. “Trauma tries to convince us that compassion, community, and humanity aren’t possible,” writes psychiatrist Paul Conti in his book, Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic. As parents, we can show our children not only how to imagine these possibilities but to also act to make them achievable. 

For additional resources, see “Nine Tips for Talking With Kids About Trauma.” 

You can learn more by watching the video below from PBS News Hour and reviewing these LIAS Blogs (titles linked below) on talking with kids about troubling news. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Today We Are Thankful

We know that the holidays are a time to remind us to be thankful for what we have. From all of us at Temescal Associates and the How Kids Learn Foundation, we wish you a peaceful and restful holiday! We are most grateful to all of you who work hard to support our youth in out of school time. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Hiring Part-Time, Temporary Staff to Work with Youth Isn’t Okay Anymore

Source: Rebecca Fabiano 

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President of FAB Youth Philly. (Note: This blog was originally published in Youth Today.)

We did something revolutionary with our two newest job postings in our youth program: offered them as full-time, year-round positions. Typically, these positions are part-time, hourly, temporary positions — and that is simply not working for us, or for our field, any longer.

Like many out-of-school time and afterschool programs, we’ve had to hire program staff at least two, even three times per year. While the function of these positions might be similar or even the same, because the time of day for the programs differs so greatly, we often have to hire different staff.

This creates a cycle of recruiting, interviewing, on-boarding, training, and off-boarding that is counterintuitive and counterproductive to the things we stand for in our field: positive relationships between youth and adults and equitable, career paths that have a living wage. It costs organizations of all sizes, but especially small organizations like ours, significant amounts of time and money, including for job postings, clearances, swag, and staff salaries. It takes up valuable time that could be put towards programming, staff training, community engagement and more, because we are doing it every three, six and nine months to be able to staff our afterschool and summer programs.

This approach to hiring is rooted in the nonprofit industrial complex and concepts like scarcity thinking. It is a waste of time, money and talent and keeps the very people we say add value to our organizations poor and less able to establish a meaningful career in our field. But most of all, for us, at Fab Youth Philly, this hamster wheel of hiring keeps us from building and maintaining trusting, caring and consistent relationships with the teens and their families we work with. If there is a new person from an unknown phone number calling or texting or sending an email every six months, how is a teen supposed to feel connected to us? How do caregivers know who to contact if they have a question or concern?

Source: Temescal Associates

“But what will these new hires do all day?” you ask. They will do and get paid for the things we ask them to do for free or outside of their work hours or for the “passion for the work”.

They will be able to attend community meetings and conduct outreach and build relationships. They will have time for planning and curriculum development. They will have time to collaborate with their colleagues — and we are hoping, as we continue to build relationships with schools and other youth-serving, nonprofit organizations and businesses. They can provide additional support in schools or public libraries or offer clubs during the day at school or at childcare centers. We see these full-time positions serving as a bridge between the school day and out-of-school time.

If you or someone you know are interested in this approach, check out the job description and others currently available on our FAB Youth Philly website. And if you’re a youth-serving organization who wants to follow the same path, here are three ways to get started:

1. Talk with your board of directors. Consider whether this move aligns with your organizational values and goals; if not, work with your board on what might need to shift. 

2. Review your budget and see where there is room to create full-time positions. We had some under-spending and talked with one of our funders about allocating this funding for the purpose of hiring full-time staff. You may have to plan a year or more out before you can offer a full-time position.

3. Talk with current or potential funders about your hiring goals and see if they are interested in testing this concept with you.

Rebecca Fabiano is the president and founder of Fab Youth Philly. For nearly 25 years, she has worked in various capacities across nonprofit and youth-serving organizations, served on boards and helped to build solid youth programs that engage, encourage, and create spaces for positive development. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Strategies to Improve School Attendance for Schools and Policy Makers

Source: California YMCA Youth & Government

By Sam Piha 
(Note: Our series of blog posts on chronic school absenteeism
are excerpts from a larger briefing paper entitled, Chronic School Absenteeism and the Role of Afterschool.)

For decades, research has confirmed that participation in quality afterschool programs improves school attendance. This is dramatically increased when afterschool programs, schools and the larger community work together collaboratively. (In Chronic School Absenteeism and the Role of Afterschool, see Appendix 4 for program evaluation examples of how afterschool programs impact school attendance.)

“Research shows that good afterschool programs can not only improve academic performance but also influence school-day attendance, even when most don’t appear to make it an intentional goal. They accomplish this by: 

  • Providing socialization and peer attention in a supervised venue. Re-establishing the link between effort and results—first in a non-school activity. 
  • Engaging students in challenging activities that help them develop persistence, a trait critical to later success in school and life.
  • Providing consistent contact with caring, stable adults.
  • Increasing the sense of belonging at school.” [i]

There are many strategies to address the various causes of chronic absenteeism. There are different strategies for different settings and stakeholders.

“Now educators face a big challenge: Helping students rebuild attendance habits while addressing the barriers that have kept them out of school. Solutions are as varied as the communities schools serve, researchers say. And any attendance strategy must be holistic, touching on everything from family relationships and transportation to anxiety and school climate.” [ii]


School Level Strategies
We know that the school climate and the individual classroom practices can have a large effect on youth absenteeism. Schools can reduce these negative factors through a program improvement process. However, afterschool programs often have little control over school day practices. Afterschool programs can still partner with schools in many ways, including serving on Care Teams or IEP committees.  

“Educators must recognize that external factors are not the only deterrents to attendance. Educators’ role is to address what sits squarely in their control: the conditions for learning. A supportive, culturally responsive school environment is one that fosters strong relationships and draws students into school. Strong conditions for learning can buffer against external factors that affect chronic absence, while weak conditions can heighten chronic absence. All four conditions are critical to improving student outcomes, especially for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.” [iii] 

To reduce chronic absenteeism schools must promote positive “Conditions for Learning”. They can accomplish this through school improvement efforts.

Source: American Institutes for Research

“Educators can also work to remove obstacles to attendance, such as helping a student who has moved obtain a bus pass, adjusting a course schedule for a student who works an early morning shift, or activating social services to provide temporary relief for homelessness. It is wise to intervene strategically (i.e., for groups of students) and early (i.e., at the first sign of disengagement or a few absences).” [iv]

For a collection of articles on absenteeism published in Ed Week, click here.

Policy And Advocacy

While schools and afterschool programs can reduce absenteeism, they need policies that support and do not hinder this work. It is important that you know who the policy making bodies are at the local, state and national levels and how you can learn from them. It is also important to know what actions to take to advocate for favorable policies. 

According to Attendance Works,

“Policy Makers Can:  

  • Adopt a standard definition of chronic absence (missing 10% or more of school), whether the school is in person, virtual or a blend, support daily attendance taking.
  • Ensure the state has a longitudinal student database—ideally beginning in preschool—that tracks attendance for each student using a unique identifier.
  • Make chronic absence a policy priority and direct districts and schools to identify contributing factors to student absenteeism.
  • Promote the adoption of learning opportunity metrics (contact, connectivity, attendance, participation and relationships) in addition to chronic absence.
  • Require that school improvement plans include prevention-oriented strategies to reduce chronic absence and improve attendance.
  • Sponsor legislation that sets a common definition for chronic absence, promotes monitoring and public reporting of data, and requires schools and districts to address high levels of chronic absence.
  • Support data sharing between education, health and social service agencies and other community-based youth and family organizations to target intervention efforts.
  • Ensure adequate and equitable resources so that all students have a substantially similar opportunity to meet performance standards regardless of geographic location, and that state and local funding are sufficient to reasonably expect that all students can meet academic performance standards.
  • Coordinate and secure resources to eliminate the digital divide.
  • Use chronic absence data to identify districts, schools, student populations and communities that need additional resources to remove barriers to attendance and ensure positive conditions of learning.
  • Build public awareness and consensus about addressing chronic absence.” [v]
[Webinar Recording Available]

To view this presentation, click here.

End Notes:

Let Youth Lead

Source: FAB Youth Philly By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President, FAB Youth Philly (This was originally published on the ...