Coalition to Support Grieving Students

The Orlando Shootings: A Parent’s Guide for Talking to Children

Children and teenagers are better able to cope with upsetting news when they understand more about the event. They need information just as adults do. In the wake of the recent tragic shooting in Orlando, FL, here are some things you can share with your students’ parents to help them when discussing the event with their children.

Where to Begin

Start by asking your child or teenager what they already understand about the shooting. (more…)

Family Holidays—A Reminder to Support Grieving Students

Mother’s Day offers a rich array of choices for classroom educators. Run an Internet search on “Mother’s Day classroom activities” and literally hundreds of ideas appear—quizzes, art projects, research, math, and that longtime standby, making cards for mom.

These can be fun endeavors for students and teachers alike. But a classroom activity focusing on mothers can be challenging for a student whose mother has died. It can also be difficult for students who don’t live with their mothers. Lesson plans posted on the Internet rarely take note of this. (more…)

Understanding Grieving Children’s ‘Confusing’ Reactions 

Grieving is a personal and distinct experience for every individual. You might have heard the statement before that, “Everyone grieves differently.” However, children’s reactions to the death of a loved one can be particularly puzzling to adults. One reason is that their reactions can vary greatly. So, for adults, it helps to expect and be ready for the unexpected.

Adults are sometimes confused if a grieving child does not behave as expected. For example, sometimes, children appear happy, unaffected, and play as usual. And sometimes, they say angry or unkind things about others or the person who died. But it’s important to understand that after the death of a loved one, children will be experiencing deep and powerful emotions, even if it is not at first clear from the things that they say and do. (more…)

How Educators Can Support Grieving Students Through Learning

Concentration and learning difficulties are extremely common for people dealing with grief. This is true for adults, as well as children. However, because learning is the main work of school-aged children and teens, these common challenges pose a risk of serious academic problems.

As one grieving student explained, “It was hard because I couldn’t concentrate on my work. If I was reading, I would read the words, but I wouldn’t read the story. I would think about something else … .”

That reflects some of the typical experiences of grieving students. (more…)

Grief Over the Holidays: Educators Can Help Students Cope

All across the nation, the December holidays are a special time for families, schools, and communities. Everywhere we look, we see signs of celebration. In schools, there may be pageants, food drives, decorations, and parties. In stores, we hear familiar music. On the streets, people wish each other happy holidays.

During these times, most of us also think about people we miss, including loved ones who have died. These memories can be especially acute for children and teens who have lost a loved one. They may experience periods of deep sadness, a renewal of their grief, or sudden and unexpected reactions of anger, despair, or fear. (more…)

Support for Grieving Students: A Team Makes It Happen

When a student experiences the death of a loved one, what should schools do? One essential step for a school supporting a grieving student is to work as a team in their efforts. Here’s an example.

Fifth grader Elia’s family was devastated when her older sister died in a car crash. Elia’s school stepped up to give Elia and her family whatever support they could.

Her teacher touched base with the family right away, attended the funeral service, and made adjustments in Elia’s coursework to ease her transition back to school. (more…)

Goals for Communicating with Grieving Families

It’s estimated that one in 20 children will lose a parent by the time he or she reaches age 16, with the vast majority of children experiencing a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Because loss during childhood is an all-too-common and underaddressed issue in our nation’s schools, NASSP has joined nine other partners in creating the Coalition to Support Grieving Students.

School professionals have a vital role to play in providing support to grieving students and their families. It is important to reach out and make contact with families after a death, and the coalition aims to provide better bereavement resources for all members of school communities across the U.S. to encourage and empower them in their ongoing support of grieving students.

The coalition has created the following nine goals for school leaders communicating with grieving families: (more…)