Tips for Educators

Teachers, school counselors, and other educators are in a unique position to help children who have experience a death in the family. Ideally, parents and educators can function as partners in the child’s well-being at school. The following suggestions are intended to provide some guidance in being a helpful resource for children and their families facing this challenge. 

For Parents

If your family has experiencing death, communication with your child's teacher(s) is important to ensure that your desires and concerns for your child are being addressed in a way that works for both you and school faculty and staff.  At the elementary school level, contact your child's teacher to arrange a time when you can discuss what is happening in your family and outline what information your child has and any behavioral or emotional concerns you may have.  At the middle and high school levels, your student's guidance counselor or homeroom teacher may be an appropriate contact within the school.  Please contact your school's office with any questions.

For School Personnel

Communicate with parents

Ideally, parents will initiate contact with you to inform you of their family's circumstances and express any desires or concerns they may have regarding their child.  Reaching out upon to parents upon learning of a serious illness or death in the family of one your students helps school faculty and staff join with parents to assist children as they process their grief.

  • If you notice significant changes in a child’s behavior or school performance, contact the parent and inquire about any circumstances that might be affecting the child.
  • If a parent notifies you that a family member has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, try to meet with the parent in person to discuss their situation and their child’s needs.
  • Learn what the child has been told, and what information the parent is willing to have shared with other school personnel and/or students.  Remember that children come from many different cultural and spiritual backgrounds and their family may have input on how death is discussed with their child.
  • Inquire about any changes the parent has noticed in the child’s functioning, and any concerns the parent has about the child.
  • Share your observations of the child, and discuss how best to handle any problems or concerns that arise at school.
  • Ask the parent to keep you informed, and/or ask if they would mind if you contacted them periodically.

Be supportive to the student

  • When appropriate, include the child in your meeting with the parent.
  • Invite the child to talk with you if needed – then be available and practice active listening skills if the child seeks you out.
  • Work with the child to develop a plan for addressing problems or concerns.
  • Maintain normal rules and routines, being careful not to single the child out for special treatment, but allowing some flexibility to meet his or her needs.
  • Be sensitive to material in the curriculum and the classroom that may impact the child, and help the class to process these issues thoughtfully.
  • If the class is aware of the student's situation, consider setting aside a small amount of time for classmates to create a card, poem, or letter for the student (sympathy cards, get well soon cards, etc.).
  • Depending on the family's wishes, you may want to inform parents of the other children in your class of the death in case their children have questions or concerns.

Please call Ele’s Place if you have any questions about this information.