Strategies For Educators
Don’t stay quiet. Not saying anything causes grieving children to feel that you don’t care. It creates the illusion that you don’t care, that talking about death is off limits, and that you don’t care that they are struggling. Talking to them and asking them how they are feeling lets them know you are there for support. When a family loses someone, the child may not want to open about their feelings to adults for worry they will upset them further. You may be the only adult they can be honest with about their feelings.
Strategies for Parents
From Childhood to Adolescence
Practice good self-care. Parents need to be healthy in order to best support their children. Do your best explaining death to your child. You won’t have the perfect thing to say. That’s ok. Be as honest as you can while staying developmentally appropriate. Allow your child to express grief and understand it may be shown through behavior. Don’t be alarmed if your child regresses in behavior. He or she may act out, become more needy, display symptoms of anxiety, have bad dreams, or wet the bed. This is all part of their grieving process, and we should not ever shame them or try to rush their process. Talk about the loved one who died. Create opportunities to share warm memories and stories about the deceased with your child. Give them one on one time. Allow them to talk. Listen and answer any questions they have. Don’t feel like it is our job to take away their pain and loss. Experiencing pain and loss is part of the grieving process. Give physical affection and undivided attention for a period each day. Try to keep the routine as close to normal as possible to provide safety and structure to your child.
Stanford Children’s. (Health, 2019) A Child’s Concept of Death., Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Sandford.
Traeger, J. (2011). Supporting Your Grieving Child. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 14(1), 116-117. Coalition to support grieving students https://grievingstudents.org
Strategies For Educators
-Genuinely express concern and ask open ended questions. Listen to the answers without interrupting. - Allow them to talk and actively listen. Don’t try to interject with your own grieving stories or views on death. Even if they don’t communicate much with you at first, it helps them to know it is an open-door policy. Be culturally sensitive. If you are not familiar with the death and grieving process of a culture, ask them how you can help and if there are any specific beliefs or preferences that could help you be supportive for them. Keep an eye on the student to watch for any signs of depression or suicidality. If you notice anything that is concerning, alert other staff and discuss the best course of action.