The Total Child

Making Memorial Day Meaningful: Supporting Military-Connected Students

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. Tom Demaria from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who develops a number of topical articles on bereavement for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students

Memorial Day was established after the Civil War to honor those who had died while in military service. It is observed each year on the last Monday of May. While non-military families often see Memorial Day as the first celebration of summer, those connected to the military are likely to see it differently.

Military-connected students almost certainly attend your schools. There are nearly 2 million children of active service members—that is, with parents in active duty military, National Guard or Reserves. They live in communities across the nation. Over 80% attend public schools.

Things To Know 

 Here are some helpful things to consider if you are planning learning activities or other student events related to Memorial Day.

  •  Memorial Day is a solemn day for most military families. Many spend it visiting cemeteries to place flowers or flags on graves. They may attend special programs remembering those who have died in service.
  •  Children who have lost a loved one through a line-of-duty death often revisit powerful feelings of grief at this time of year.
  •  Memorial Day is not the same as Veteran’s Day. While Veteran’s Day honors all who have served in our military. Memorial Day focuses particularly on those who have died in the line of duty. This distinction is quite important to military-connected children and their families.
  •  The TAPS Good Grief Camp is a weekend experience offered over Memorial Day weekend to child survivors of service members who died in the line of duty.

 Things to Do

 To support military-connected children, especially those who are grieving a line-of-duty death, consider these steps. 

  •  Offer students opportunities to think about and discuss the serious and solemn qualities of Memorial Day.
  •  If active service members or veterans are invited to speak to students at this time of year, ask them to acknowledge and address the deeper meanings of Memorial Day.
  •  Support students’ efforts to attend events such as the Good Grief Camp.
  •  If you know military-connected students, especially if they are grieving, reach out as Memorial Day approaches. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask whether Memorial Day brings up any thoughts or feelings they’d like to talk about. Let them know you’re thinking of them.

 The Coalition to Support Grieving Students offers a range of free resources that can help educators learn more about supporting grieving students. They have just released a special module, Supporting Children and Family Survivors of Military Line-of-Duty Deaths. This will be helpful to any educator working with military-connected children. Our organization is a member of the Coalition.

 

Supporting Students After the Manchester Tragedy

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Monday night's bombing in Manchester, England has likely unsettled some of your students, especially because so many of the deceased and injured are school-age. As the school year comes to a close, many students are preparing for trips to amusement parks, vacations to new places and concert venues to see their favorite artists. Cowardly actions like those of  the suspected suicide bomber will make some students AND adults afraid to go about their normal lives. In light of this, AASA has pulled together some resources to help you talk with your students as they process their grief and fear. These tools can help you provide suggestions for coping with this event and similar events in a healthy way.

 With any questions, please contact Kayla Jackson, project director, AASA, at kjackson@aasa.org or 703-875-0725.

 

Take the Prevention Promise: A Parent's Story

(National Awareness) Permanent link

The following guest post is by Martha Lopez-Anderson, Executive Director of Parent Heart Watch. She tells her story of how she became involved with Parent Heart Watch and why it's important to Take the Prevention Promise.

 A beautiful and sunny Sunday afternoon in February 2004 became the darkest day of my life. One minute my active 10 year-old son, Sean, was happily rollerblading to a friend’s house and the next he was lying unresponsive on the sidewalk of our neighborhood.

 PHWblogMay22
Martha Lopez-Anderson with her son, Sean.

At first, neighbors thought he was having a seizure and called 911, but it wasn’t until a neighbor and registered nurse recognized he was not breathing, that CPR was started. Police were the first to arrive at the scene. Paramedics followed more than 10 minutes later and used a device known as an automated external defibrillator or AED several times to shock Sean’s heart back to rhythm, but his heart just quivered…it was too late.

Ironically, Sean’s heart had stopped beating just two days after he had participated in Jump Rope for Heart at his school.

 Four and a half months later we learned that Sean had suffered sudden cardiac arrest or SCA due to a heart condition that went undetected until after his death. How could my seemingly healthy son be gone? He was not sick and had never missed a well-checkup. I thought of myself as an informed and resourceful parent, yet I was totally blindsided by sudden cardiac arrest.

As I grieved the loss of my baby boy and searched for answers, Parent Heart Watch reached out to me, which is how I became educated about sudden cardiac arrest in youth, its causes, prevention strategies and treatment. Like the fact that 1 in 300 youth has an undiagnosed heart condition that puts them at risk for SCA. And that sometimes, warning signs of a potential heart condition go unrecognized and unreported.

Do you know what made my grief worse? Learning that my son’s death could have been potentially prevented. How you may ask? Through early detection or by simply being prepared in the event of a cardiac emergency.

Sadly, mine is just one story.

 According to a US Fire Administration census on school building fires between 2009 - 2011, there were an estimated 75 fire-related injuries, with resulting fatalities being rare. The National Fire Protection Association reports that there have been eight K-12 school fires with 10 or more deaths since 1908. Likely because every school is now equipped with fire extinguishers and fire drills.

 PHWlogomay22

Now consider this: SCA is the #1 killer of student athletes and is the leading cause of death on school campuses. Given this tragic dynamic, educators could play a critical role in saving lives by championing SCA awareness throughout their school community and advocating for life-saving SCA prevention tools on their campus.

 We lose thousands of youth each year to sudden cardiac arrest because adults who live and work with youth are not prepared for a cardiac emergency, either as parents who are not encouraged to proactively protect their kid’s heart through a cardiac risk assessment and screening, or as educators, coaches, counselors and others who have not had the opportunity to equip their facilities with cardiac emergency response plans, CPR trained staff and automated external defibrillators.

 There is a national movement called Take the Prevention Promise that compels anyone who has children or works with them to get educated about the true incidence of sudden cardiac arrest in youth and how anyone can save a life. Educational resources and tools can be found at www.ParentHeartWatch.org.

 My hope is that we can all take the time to be prepared – the life you save could very well be your own child’s.