Talking With Children
“A lot of my teachers, actually, did not do a lot, which was not helpful at all. It makes you feel kind of awkward, makes you feel very, very alone, very not understood.” (Student)
School professionals make a world of difference when they reach out to grieving students. This module describes ways students benefit from grief support. It provides strategies for starting a conversation with a student. It identifies common and well-meaning statements that may not be helpful, then offers alternatives to help you feel confident your conversation will be constructive. It outlines ideas for sustaining helpful conversations over time and suggests ways to build effective support among peers when a classmate experiences the death of a close family member or friend. The video includes interviews with students, educators and administrators, as well as four simulated encounters with actors that model approaches educators can use in different situations.
Grief in children is common. By the time they finish high school, almost all students will have experienced the death of someone close. About 5% will experience the death of a parent while in school. Educators can make a world of difference for students and their families through some surprisingly simple steps.
One of the simplest and most important is to express concern directly to a student. You might say, “I was so sorry to hear about the death of your grandfather. How are you doing? How is your family?”
Use open-ended questions. Listen more and talk less. While every individual responds to grief differently, virtually all students will appreciate these gestures. Many would like to talk more about their experiences and thoughts. By reaching out, you are signaling that you are willing and available to talk when they are ready to do so.
View the video by chapters:
Why you should reach out to grieving students
Strategies for starting the conversation
Navigating reluctance and communicating with empathy