For students of any age, the death of a parent is an extremely difficult time. School-aged children that suffer the loss of a parent can easily feel lost or overwhelmed. At their age, they haven’t learned how to cope with a loss of such magnitude. Heck, I’m almost 40 and I can’t deal with the loss of a sibling. I can’t even imagine dealing with the loss of my parent during my school years.
There is a lot of pressure in today’s world when it comes to a child’s education. Schools often push the students to learn as much as they can as fast as they can. This can lead to a lot off different struggles for the child.
Throwing in a traumatic event only increases those struggles and can create a downward spiral event in a child’s home and school life. Teachers play a big part in the role of the child because they seem them on almost a daily basis and spend time with them throughout the day.
4 things teachers can do to help children get through the loss of a parent.
1. Acknowledge the child’s feelings. The child is going to have a lot of fears about everything. These fears may include losing another parent, losing someone else that’s close to them, or that the same thing is going to happen to them. In addition to the fears they may have, children are also going to have a lot of different emotions going through them. They may be sad or not want to participate in any activities. Reassure them that these feelings are normal but that with your help, it can be worked through.
2. Don’t make light of the situation. The teacher’s goal should be supporting the student while they grieve. Often, we want to find the good in a situation but in this situation, you’ll want to avoid that.
3. Stick to a routine but adjust the expectations. Students will still need a routine and structure. It is not uncommon for a child to have difficulty concentrating or completing their work during a difficult time. While a child is grieving, expectations and the routine may be adjusted to what helps the student the best. This could mean decreasing their workload, working on group projects instead of individual products or assigning activities that will get his/her peers involved for support.
4. Talk to the student or let the student talk to you. Let the student talk to you about what’s going through their head, how they feel, or what’s bothering them. Help the student remember some good times and memories about the parent they’ve lost, or help them create artwork to express their feelings.
Teachers play an important role in helping a child develop both emotionally and academically. They are often the ones who see the child struggle the most and help the child cope with those struggles. When the loss of a parent happens, this is a huge traumatic event for anyone, especially a child. Having a teacher that can help them get through the school year when a tragedy occurs can make a huge impact on the child and help them tremendously.