5 Tips to Help Grieving Students in the Classroom
Schools are a critically important environment for children as they learn, grow, and develop. They are a vital space for ensuring a child’s emotional, physical, and mental health. Children who experience loss and adversity often feel stressed, anxious, and socially isolated in the classroom because they see themselves as very different from their peers. Educators play an integral role helping grieving students adapt to this painful life experience, build resilience, and thrive through it.
Research shows that the presence of a supportive adult caregiver is the most important factor in determining whether a child will be resilient. Creating a safe classroom starts with the person in charge. Teachers who create a safe space for students to openly share about the adversity and challenges they face help them feel comfortable talking about tough topics like death and grief.
Use these tips as a guide to know how to support grieving students who are navigating loss and adversity.
1. Understand Classroom Dynamics
Every classroom and school has its own culture and dynamic. It is important to be attentive to the school environment and the classroom dynamic. Identify activities that will promote and/or inhibit healthy coping during a time of adversity. Consistently work on strengthening a sense of community by acknowledging things students have in common.
2. Identify Social Networks
A child needs the support, acceptance, and understanding of peers, so be aware of a child’s social network at school. Consider making introductions to other kids who have experienced adversity. Equip students with the resources they need to support a friend, ask for help, and show kindness and inclusivity.
3. Build Trust
Trust is built by creating a safe environment that allows the open expression and exploration of thoughts and feelings. When a child or teen knows they can ask questions and express feelings without judgment, they are more likely to be vulnerable and care for each other. Create classroom guidelines that foster trust, such as respect, honoring diversity, and kindness.
4. Allow Expression
It is critical for children and teens to express their grief with others to make sense of what has happened. Not all children or teens can easily communicate their feelings. Art, communal projects, theater, and music allows kids to express their grief in a way that feels safe for them.
5. Encourage Exploration
Death and grief prompt big questions. Kids want and need to explore these big questions. They need facts, information, and honesty to understand and support this process. Creating a classroom that permits asking big and difficult questions helps the students become more empathic, vulnerable, and supportive.
More Resources for Grieving Students
If you’re looking for more resources or strategies to help grieving students, reach out to our Good Grief Schools team. We help schools create a more supportive and empathic culture in response to loss and adversity. We’re ready to help your school community build a safe space for children to explore and express their feelings. Contact us online today.