For a Teacher

IN THE CLASSROOM ...

HELPING A CHILD IN THE CLASSROOM

The child must feel the teacher's support as soon as possible.

If the person who has died is a parent or sibling, attend the funeral if possible.Check with the child and his/her parents to see if they would like classmates to attend.

Speak to the children in the class about death and tell them that one of their friends has lost someone very much loved. Speak to the grieving child privately, giving assurances that the teacher is there to help and to understand.

CLASSROOM MISBEHAVIOR

I have tried to understand, but it is six months since Leslie's brother died, and she appears to be deliberately misbehaving in class. Is it my imagination?

The child's behavior may be a problem for a while. The teacher's compassionate understanding is crucial.

Some people may not express grieving behaviors and feelings either out of choice or because grieving has not yet caught up with them. It is a common notion that the grieving period should be over in six months. But, in reality, true grieving may only begin at that time, the onset of grieving being delayed for months or even years.

If problems continue, it may help to talk to the parents. But keep in mind that all members of the family may be suffering and therefore unable to provide much assistance.

Children can be helped to express their emotions through art, music, physical activities or story writing. If this is done as part of a general class activity, focus should not be upon the bereaved child; rather, on the activities themselves.

BEREAVED CHILDREN AND THEIR CLASSMATES

The children treat Chris differently than they used to. Chris has begun to take advantage of the special treatment. How should I deal with this?

Classes may react to their bereaved classmates with "special" treatment such as avoiding or babying behaviors which may not be helpful.

There are excellent story books to introduce death and bereavement to a class so that children can be able to discuss the meaning of these concepts at their own level of understanding. Explained as painful but natural events in the cycle of life, the class may be less inclined to pursue harmful responses

Of course, the teacher must be sensitive to any discussion while the bereaved child is in class. What is a poignant story to others may be painful to this child.

Book lists are available from Bereaved Families.

THE FEAR OF DEATH IN THE CLASSROOM

One of the children in my grade nine class died. This has thrown my class into a state of fear and confusion about death. For the first time, I think the children are recognizing their own mortality. How can I help the class through this period?

The death of a classmate illuminates for children their own mortality and evokes the fear of each child's own death. A film, a guest speaker or perhaps a specialist in grief counseling, can aid in initiating a discussion about such fears.

Before taking on such a discussion, make sure you prepare yourself. Prerequisite to any discussion or activity is the recognition by teachers of their own similar feelings, fears and confusion about death and dying. Only then will you be ready to help the children.

Children's disruptive behaviour, decline in school performance or disobedience may be the visible reactions to the death of a classmate. Adolescents in particular may react more visibly to the death of a classmate than young children. Their school work may suffer. Recognize this as grieving and not wilful disobedience or an unwillingness to complete school work on time.

It is important for adults to give a child's grief the same importance that would be offered an adult. However, recognize when a child has begun to lose control. Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol or declining grades should alert the teacher to refer the youngster to outside help.

GETTING FURTHER ASSISTANCE

Bereaved Families is prepared and able to offer assistance by sending trained speakers to the classroom, or to teacher's groups. We also provide educational programs and workshops for professionals and for the bereaved. Please contact us if you have any specific questions or problems.

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