Adapted from the National Association of School Psychologists
It is very difficult for all of us to face the death of a young
person, and it can generate a high level of anxiety and distress in
our children. Your child may be affected by a death even if they
didn't know the person who passed away. We encourage you to talk with
your child. Discussing thoughts and feelings about death is important
in helping your child work through a difficult situation.
If you feel your child needs to speak with a guidance counselor, social worker or other adult, please contact the school main office and we will connect you with someone to provide immediate assistance.
Some things in life are especially hard to deal with...and hard to talk about...for adults as well as for children. It seems that the hardest ones involve loss. While most of the time, going away is followed by coming back, there are times when it's not. When a loss is permanent, children can have a lot of anger and sadness about a person or a beloved pet being taken away from them.
Grief is the internal response we experience when we lose someone
or something that we care about. The best way we as adults can help a
child is to encourage the child to express his or her feelings and
questions. A child needs reassurance that someone will be there to
support them. Children need to feel included in what is happening in
the situation. It is generally best to avoid non-essential separations
at this time.
Whenever possible, maintain a sense of routine for your child. The predictability is something that can be counted on during this time when other routines have been disrupted. If possible, include in your child's daily routine a place or time to talk about the day and ask questions. Provide simple answers, give a short description and listen for questions behind the questions. Consider the age of your child and where he or she is developmentally. Remember that the crisis is reprocessed from time to time. New questions can arise at every stage.
The following are some tips for speaking with young people about death:
A childâ€™s need to ask the same questions about death over and over is more of a need for reassurance that the story has not changed rather than a need for factual accuracy. Children also seek adult reactions so they can gauge their own reactions. Emotions may be expressed as angry outbursts or misbehaviors that are often not recognized as grief related.
Ages 5-9: These ages are when children begin to
understand the finality of death. Death is seen as an accident rather
than inevitable. Death is often seen as something that will happen to
others not to ourselves.
Ages 10-12: Children have the mental development and emotional security to express an understanding of death as a final and inevitable event.
Adolescents (Ages 13-18): By the time children reach middle school, they probably understand death as well as adults. They understand it is permanent and happens to everyone eventually. Teens spend much of their time thinking, daydreaming, and philosophizing about death. They are often fascinated with death and fantasize about their own death to the dismay of their parents. They imagine their own funeral, for example, who will come, how badly people will feel, and how people will wish they had been nicer to them when they were alive. Even with this preoccupation with death, they can feel immune to it and engage in death-challenging behaviors such as reckless driving or drinking or taking drugs.
Common Reactions for All Children