Things you can do in class
The bereaved child and their family will have their own ideas about where the school fits in with the support needed. It may be that the pupil will return to school very quickly before the funeral so procedures need to be put in place to facilitate that return.
- When a child first returns to school, talk to them privately and acknowledge the death with them. Let them know what other pupils know.
- Provide a sense of normality. For many pupils school offers a welcome sense of normality as things at home may have changed greatly.
- Ask what the pupil thinks might help them.
- Be sensitive to the bereaved pupil's individual needs as everyone is different.
Simple suggestions to help pupils cope with their grief in school include:
- Use of a 'time-out card' - This allows the pupil to leave the class, without permission, to go to a designated place for some quiet time when they begin to feel overwhelmed or upset in class. It's important that staff are made aware of the situation.
- Listening - It can be helpful if the pupil has someone in school that they can go to if they need someone to talk to. It is best if this is someone the pupil knows and trusts and if the pupil can be involved in deciding who this might be and how they can be accessed. Secondary aged pupils can be self-conscious about accessing support and may not wish to be singled out.
- Comfort item - Some pupils find it helpful to carry a comforting object with them in their pocket such as a soft piece of fabric, a pebble, or a reminder of the person who has died. Holding onto something tangible can help a pupil remain grounded and in control, or provide a comforting memory.
- Writing - Use a notebook to help a bereaved pupil who finds it difficult to verbalise their feelings. The pupil can just leave it on the teacher's desk, having written or drawn whatever they wish. The teacher then responds in the diary and either discreetly returns it to the pupil, or just leaves it to be picked up from the desk again.
- Happy/sad faces - Provide the bereaved pupil with a drawing of a face, one on each side of a piece of paper - one happy, one sad. The pupil shows the side that reflects how they are feeling on a particular day, or you might develop a simple scale with a sad or happy face at either end. This gives you an idea of how they are feeling at a given moment.
- Books - are a simple but effective way of helping with grief. For younger children the book would need to be read whilst accompanied by an adult to encourage communication. CBUK has a free App for young people.
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