The Challenges in Connecting to the World

We live in a world that is always connected, and that may not always be a good thing.

As events unfold in the Middle East, the world is witnessing violence and trauma both in media coverage and online in real time, often unfiltered and unedited. Almost everyone – including many children – has seen very disturbing images. We are  living through the events in the age of social media, and the impact can be troubling.

The incidents of violence and trauma released in media coverage and social media posts may result in symptoms of traumatic stress for students and staff, and can elevate societal anxiety, resulting in feelings of sadness and loss, and a heightened awareness of hate-related violence. Diana Martin, senior director of counselling for Kids Help Phone, says that this exposure may leave kids feeling “freaked out”, “numb”, or “confused”. And the adults we work with may feel the same.

In this climate, trauma-informed leadership practices are critical. In BC, we are fortunate that the Ministry of Education and Child Care, working with Kevin Cameron, has provided references and resources to support this work, with more trauma resources coming soon, and all school districts have a Safe Schools Coordinator. For school leaders looking for resources, suggestions, or contacts, I encourage you to first reach out to your district’s Safe Schools Coordinator if you are unsure how to proceed with an emerging situation in your own school community.

This week, West Vancouver (SD 45) Director for Inclusive Education, Sandra-Lynn Shortall, and District Principal, Corrine Kinnon, shared the following helpful suggestions for school leaders:


1. Think human systems
Remember that we work in human systems, and we can provide emotional safety and understanding (as an organization) with our “open” leadership.

2. Model calmness
Model calmness and acknowledge our own vulnerability. Remember that it’s okay to be not okay. As Kevin Cameron says, “Being human but hopeful is powerful in leadership.”

3. Maintain a focus on personal agency
Focus on the things we can control. Kevin Cameron suggests avoiding becoming saturated in “the state of the world” (macro-system) by maintaining our focus on our own domains (micro-system). 

4. Take time to connect and care for each other
Our relationships are essential.  All the work we have done to develop healthy relationships with each other, our staff, and our community partners will be drawn upon to provide us with comfort and support during difficult times. 

5.  Practice and role model self-care  
Take those breaks, talk, walk, integrate wellness into your daily routine. This is a critical key to protecting mental wellness and sustaining open leadership practices during challenging times.

How to plan to talk to children and youth during crisis events.

  • “Model Calmness” 
  • Answer questions directly. You do not need to know all the answers.
  • Identify those in need and seek them out.
  • With sensitivity, identify any members in your communities who may be directly impacted by the events.
  • Strategically increase our connection with individual(s) of concern. The more an individual can identify with the victims of violence and learn compassion, it will lower their risk if they receive compassion also. 
  • Be alert to individuals who identify with the aggressor. 
  • Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Take stock of your own emotions before talking to students or youth about tragedies. The purpose of your conversation is to understand and address the child/youth’s concerns. Be calm and reassure them that their safety is of the greatest importance to you.
  • Listen to the child/youth’s fears, questions, and worries and try to understand what they are thinking or feeling without criticism or judgement.
  • Keep communication open. Let the children/youth know that they can reach out to you if they feel afraid or have a question.
  • Model kind and sensitive behaviour. 
  • In your actions, show that you believe in your child/youth’s courage, strength, and resilience. Yes, it is a dangerous world, and there are reasons for fear. But they are not alone and together you can use the lessons of the past to help your child feel empowered by helping to create a world that is safer, kinder, and more loving. 
Thanks to Sandra-Lynn and Corrine for providing permssion to share this message more broadly to our members across the province.

This week’s column recognizes the challenges inherent in being connected to the world. For most, being connected is not, in itself, a bad thing. For others – depending on what they connect to, and how they process what they see and learn – connection can be a challenge. Being connected can also give users access to information that can support those in need.

Last weekend, we had the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving; living in Canada, we have much  to be thankful for. As you are taking care of your community, don't forget to take a moment to take care of yourself during this time of trauma.

Best wishes for the weekend, and the week ahead.



The BC Principals' & Vice-Principals' Association is a voluntary professional association representing school leaders employed as Principals and Vice-Principals in BC's public education system. We provide our members with the professional services and supports they need to provide exemplary leadership in public education.

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