Teachers are in a unique position to provide positive support to bereaved children. 28% of Irish 9 year old’s have lost a grandparent, and 2.2% a parent, according to ESRI research (2012). UK figures show that 70% of schools have a bereaved pupil on their roll book at all times. It is reasonable to expect that all teachers will encounter a child who has suffered a bereavement at some point.
Teachers and school staff are in a unique position to support children in their class or school community. School and its routine provide stability, security, continuity, and above all a familiar structure and routine to a child whose world might be in turmoil and confusion due to significant change and loss in the family.
When a bereaved child returns to school, it is important that the school climate is supportive and understanding of their needs. Bereavement can impact hugely on the emotional and social well-being of the child, and on their ability to concentrate and conduct their studies. Most grieving pupils do not need a bereavement expert, just the support of people who care. Teachers can make a real difference to bereaved pupils by acknowledging their loss and by offering opportunities for them to talk about their experiences if they want to, and by listening and responding to a pupil’s spoken and unspoken messages.
We have developed our own online resource for primary school teachers here. We also compiled a range of useful resources to help a teacher support a bereaved child and talk to the other students about what has happened. Our suggested reading is a useful resource for teachers: click here.