Tips On Helping A Child In Grief

I love my job, but it is bitter sweet. I have the role of pastoral leader in a primary school. Not to be confused with anyone particulalrly religious, but more of a person in charge of childrens’ wellbeing and emotional state within school. A mother hen if you will. I deal with the after effects of divorce, bereavement and difficulties at home and at school. I would like to write today about some useful tips I have found when dealing with the complexities of grief in children. Tips that I have picked up both from training I have been on, and from directly working with children. My own children included. I hope that you find them useful, and if you feel they will help others, that you can pass them on.

Talking is the key. The child needs to know that they can talk about the person they have lost and about their feelings both at home and at school. They need to know that their feelings matter. At times adults may be forgiven for thinking they are protecting a child by talking behind closed doors, but children pick up on things ever so well, and this could make them feel excluded in their grief. This isn’t helpful. Obviously there may be details that you don’t want them to know, but on the whole it is helpful to drip feed any answer to questions they have. A simple explanation of what happened will also give them the feeling that they can open up. Having a key person at school really helps. Children can tend to bottle things up to protect their adults at home, particularly if they are in grief themselves. The child can then come to school and need to offload. Also, your choice of words needs to be considered. Children can get confused if you use phrases such as ‘fallen asleep, or ‘we have lost’, to them, well we wake up again so why can’t Grandad and why can’t you find him….? Try to avoid telling them that they are brave, they may try to live up to this and bottle away their grief. Talking, really, it is the key.

It may be hard to come into school and talk to staff when you are grieving yourself but…

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