It seems almost impossible that it’s already time to gather books and backpacks and to recalibrate our bodies and minds to the rhythms set by the school year. This time of year can present a particularly difficult set of adjustments for grieving children, teens, and parents.

For parents and caregivers, sending a grieving child or teen back to school can bring up a wide range of emotions. Parents want their children to feel safe, and they may worry about their grieving child stepping out the door and into a less sheltered, less understanding environment outside of the home.

Children and teens may crave a return to the normalcy and safety provided by school routine, but they may also find that their peers often misunderstand the many conflicting feelings caused by their loss.

School teachers, counselors, and administrators might find themselves needing to support a grieving student and not know where to turn.

It can be a difficult time of year, and there are no easy answers.

We would like to share a few important tips, compiled by our friends at The Dougy Center. We believe they represent some great guidelines for teachers, parents, and anyone else who might be caring for a grieving child or teen as he or she heads back to school.

  • DO listen. Grieving students need a safe, trusted adult who will listen to them.
  • DO follow routines. Routines provide a sense of safety, which is very comforting to the grieving student.
  • DO set limits. Just because students are grieving, doesn’t mean that the rules do not apply. When grieving, students may experience lapses in concentration or exhibit risk-taking behavior. Setting clear limits provides a more secure and safer environment for everyone under these circumstances.
  • DO NOT suggest that the student has grieved long enough.
  • DO NOT indicate that the student should get over it and move on.
  • DO NOT act as if nothing has happened.
  • DO NOT say things like:
    – “It could be worse. You still have one brother.”
    – “I know how you feel.”
    – “You’ll be stronger because of this.”
  • DO NOT expect the student to complete all assignments on a timely basis.

For parents, check out the advice found at What’sYourGrief.com. On their website, they share nine direct action steps you might take to improve communication with your child and with the school about loss.

DSCN0232Good communication between a grieving child’s home and their school is an important aspect of a successful transition back to school. It is also important for grieving kids to know that adults at school know about the death and are available for support.

Of course, these are just tips and suggestions. Every loss is unique and brings with it different challenges. We hope you find a rhythm that works for you and that the transition back to school is as smooth as it can be.

Have a peaceful start to the new school year!