Teachers and support staff play a crucial role in supporting bereaved children and young people as they spend a significant amount of time with them.
It can be a very challenging experience for them to return to school when a significant person in their life has died, so it’s vital they received the appropriate support to meet their specific needs.
Here are some tips on how staff can best support a bereaved child/ young person in school.
- When you first hear of the bereavement, we suggest that someone from the leadership team or the child’s class teacher reaches out to the family. This could be done either by phone or in person. It may also be thoughtful to send a card, or you could consider sending them a Smiles & Tears box which is a gift box of useful resources that has been specifically designed to support a bereaved child. To find out more and to order them, please click here.
- Work with the family and create a plan for the child’s return to school. They may feel worried and anxious about their peers knowing about their situation and may prefer to share with a select few friends. It’s important to understand what information the family and child want to share within the school community. Establishing a support system for the child is crucial as they will need people to turn to when they are struggling, including identifying a trusted adult, who can be there for them. However, be mindful that sometimes hearing about a death and witnessing a child’s distress can trigger grief in adults, so ensure staff members are supported too.
- There may be some sensitive issues around the person’s death, for instance, if it was a suicide. It’s best to work with the family to determine what information can and cannot be shared. If staff are made aware of the death, it’s not necessary for everyone to know all of the details, but for everyone to be aware of what has happened.
- If the child shares their experience, it’s important to listen without sharing your personal views and beliefs. Each child’s grief journey is unique and there may be things you hear that don’t fit your own views and beliefs. It’s important to just listen to the child without judgement.
- It’s important to be flexible when a child/ young person returns to school. Some may struggle to attend on a full-time basis, whilst others may take comfort in the structure and routine of school life. They may wish to come back on a part-time basis and may need to take regular breaks when they feel overwhelmed. Remember, just because they are in school, doesn’t mean they will be able to focus on their learning all the time.
- Be aware that their behaviour can change quite quickly. It’s normal that they will lose their concentration in class, and you may see them jump from being overwhelmed and emotional to happy and laughing.
- Suggest to the child/ young person to try using our Smiles & Tears Postcards. These are a downloadable resource for bereaved children and young people to print off and use to help them communicate how they’re feeling without talking. These postcards can be shared with teachers, as well as with, friends, family members and even themselves. To download them, click here.
- Our website offers various resources that can assist you in supporting a child/ young person who is grieving. There are lots of free downloadable activities to help remember their significant person as well as helping them manage difficult feelings. Visit https://nelsonsjourney.org.uk/resources/ to access these resources.
- There are lots of books to help support bereaved children and young people, to download full list of recommended reading, please click here.
- Training – We offer free, online awareness training which is open to professionals who are working with children and young people in Norfolk. The session will help you to recognise a range of experiences related to bereavement, understand the services we provide to children and young people, gain confidence in how to work with bereaved children, young people and their families as well as identify resources and organisations available to support bereaved families. Our next training session is on 4th September 2023 at 9.30am and can be booked online here: https://nelsonsjourneytraining.eventbrite.co.uk