How Teachers Can Help a Grieving Student
- Call the child and the family, and offer your condolences. Ask the student and the parents what information they would like you to share with the class. Ask the student how their peers can be most helpful to them as they are going through this sad time.
- Reassure the student that you are there to help them manage in school during this difficult time.
- Figure out a private signal with the student that will let you know when they are struggling and need to take a break to see the nurse or the school counselor. Children often don't want the class to know they are upset.
- Communicate with parents about how their child seems to be doing emotionally, socially and academically. Consult with them about ways that you can further support the grieving process. Parents know their child the best and can be very helpful in giving you suggestions.
- Classmates are often uncomfortable when dealing with a peer that has lost a loved one. Help them understand that their friend needs to feel that they will be treated the same as before, and that they are not different from everyone else because of the death. Let the class know that if their friend brings up the topic, it is ok to talk to them about the death, but they should respect their friend's wishes if they would rather not talk. Help them identify ways to let their friend know they care like making a card, inviting them over to play or watch a movie, giving them flowers or a stuffed animal.
- Relax the academic expectations. Children who are grieving often have difficulty concentrating and can worry about falling behind in their schoolwork. Let the child know that you are there to help them with their schoolwork during this difficult time. Check in with them often about how they are doing academically. Give the child more time to complete work, take tests, and decrease homework expectations in the early days and weeks after the death.