parenting: Helping a grieving child get back into the school routine
September is over, and children are back in the school routine. For some children, returning to school is complicated by the fact that they are also grieving the death of someone important in their lives.
This can add a layer of challenge and concern for parents, teachers and children alike. Simple things like reuniting with classmates can become more difficult for a grieving child. Often, others don’t know what to say to a child who has experienced a loss. This can mean that both adults and peers avoid talking about it at all. Other times, the comments and platitudes intended to be helpful, such as, “she’s in a better place”, can often be hurtful instead.
There are some important things to keep in mind when thinking about the needs of a grieving student, who can be distracted by many concerns. Some are worried about their other grieving family members while they are away all day. Other children will go to great lengths to stay busy and avoid their feelings as much as possible. They may be flooded with memories or intense feelings, making it difficult to concentrate in the classroom.
Grieving children may have a heightened sensitivity around how the loss makes them different from their peers, creating new stress in those relationships and social times at school. Some grieving students will act out with difficult behaviors and others will withdraw and lose interest in things they once enjoyed.
And yes, some children will seem entirely the same as they did before, and it may be difficult to know if or when these children need extra support.
While there is no one right way to support a grieving child who is returning to school, there are some things that can help ease the transition back to school:
Returning to school after a death can be challenging. With a little extra care, it can also be a positive experience for children going to a school that also feels like a safe place. Parents can ease the transition by taking a few steps to keep the school informed of the impact of the loss on their family, and including the child in conversations about what is most helpful to help them during the school day. Schools can be one of the biggest supports to a family dealing with a difficult loss.