A fun and safe place for grieving children.

Back-To-School Tips for supporting a child in grief

School is the child’s work. Just as adults have jobs, kids undergo stressful deadlines, increased work, and are graded on their performance. When there is an increase in stress, grief can surface and create complicated feelings and inhibit academic and social performance; this is why Comfort Zone programs are provided year round.  Here are helpful tips for preparing for the upcoming school year.

 

  • Open Dialogue: Encourage open dialogue about the upcoming school year with your student. Ask open-ended questions that allow for thoughtful responses: “What are you looking forward to this year?” “What are some things I can do to help?” Include discussion about the best ways to support them: “I know when I am having a tough day I like to listen to music in the car on the way to pick you up. I also like talking to my friends who make me feel better.”
  • Predict, Plan, Prepare: Predicting that there will be difficult times does not mean there will be, it just helps you as the parent. Inform the school system of the death, and work with teachers, counselors, and administrators to develop a plan to support the student. Identify and prepare a ‘School Advocate’ (a trusted mentor at school that the grieving student respects and trusts) so the student has someone they can talk to during school hours.
  • Control: Teachers and parents should give the student/child permission to make their own choices about who, how, and when to share their grief. Remind each child that their grief is individual and their own; empower them to control the conversation by sharing as little, or as much, as they are comfortable.
  • Coping: Identify activities (outside of schoolwork) that can serve as coping skills. Creativity and imagination are great ways to develop a child's coping skills. Encourage them to find or reinvest in activities that they are good at and find interesting. Recreation is vital for the development of attributes that contribute to resiliency, and can diversify a student’s peer group.
  • Rest & Sleep: Research confirms that children who rest more, sleep better. An exhausted child does not sleep better. Help the child make space in his or her schedule for down-time and sleep (between 8-12 hours daily depending on age). A healthy body and mind lead to better management of stress and emotions.

 

School is exciting, and can help children in grief establish structure and accountability. Parents can support the transition by being open with their child, and by empowering the school - and the youth - to find the best tactics that work for them.  Have a great year!

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