Specific Advice For Teachers
Telling other pupils
Talk to the child and their parent or carer about what they want. Some children find it helpful for a teacher to tell their class about the bereavement, but other children may want to tell only a group of friends themselves.
Allow time out
Let bereaved children take short breaks from class or assembly when they are upset. Give them somewhere safe and quiet they can go where there is a caring adult supervision, no questions asked – such as a staff room or a medical room. Ensure all teachers understand the child can always go to this room without having to explain why.
Look for changes in performance and behaviour
Bereaved children may lose interest in their work, or become disruptive or withdrawn at any time. This could happen months or even years after a bereavement, but still be connected to the bereavement. If their performance or behaviour is out of character, consider that it may be due to the bereavement. Grief takes a long time and it is your job to be supportive, not demanding.
Talk regularly to the child’s parent or carer
Some children act OK at school but are very upset or disruptive at home, or vice-versa. Inform the child’s carer or parent if you notice any change in a bereaved child, so the carer or parent have an opportunity to talk to the child and to help them progress through their grief with continued love and support. It may be that the child has questions that have not been answered, or has particular concerns. Through conversation you or their carer or parent may be able to resolve an issue for the child and enable that child to move forward more positively.
Children under attack
Watch out for bullying – children can be cruel and many even tease a child who has been bereaved, particularly if the bereaved child does not want to take part in games or conversation because they are too upset. Sometimes, bullying can occur simply because they are seen as different now they are bereaved.
Be aware of any activities that may spark an upsetting memory. For example, a lesson where children made a ‘Mother’s Day’ or ‘Father’s Day’ card. However, do not automatically exclude a bereaved child from such lessons. The best thing to do is to talk to the child and their carer and to help them choose what they would like to do.
Your school’s bereavement policy
If you do not have a bereavement policy, now is the time to write one! This should explain the standards and procedures you have in place to help children who are bereaved in your school. By writing a policy, you may identify certain needs, such as the need to have one or two employees trained in bereavement care, or a need for more bereavement resources, or a need to teach children about bereavement within the curriculum, so they are better prepared if they are sadly bereaved. Mention your bereavement policy in your school brochure, so families know what to expect.