Children, young people and their parents/carers have different ways of responding to a death, and no one size of support will fit all. They need to be given choices about how information is managed and how they are supported.
Schools can use the suggestions below to help structure conversations with pupils and families about how they would like to be supported. The conversation will need revisiting over time: children’s needs will vary as family life changes, and as their development influences their understanding of the death and what it means to them.
Useful topics to cover in discussions with pupils and parents/carers include
- What the child has been told and what they understand
- How to tell the rest of the class or form and other staff about what has happened
- How the child will return to school
- How the child will be supported in school if they get overwhelmed or upset – who they can talk to and where they can go
- How to balance flexibility and structure e.g. with handing in homework on time, contributing in class
- Key dates that the school should be aware of (e.g. the birthday of the person who died, the anniversary of the death)
- Any changes to the pupil’s emergency contacts and ways of keeping in touch with the family
- How the child’s needs and wishes will be reviewed over time.
Choices for pupils
A group of bereaved pupils working with Seasons for Growth (Scotland) a CBN member, have come up with a list of suggestions for support. Pupils may find some of these approaches helpful and downloading and discussing these can help you to open up conversations with them and their family.
Remember, their needs will change and you may need to check that the support you are giving is still appropriate as time moves on. Your support will help, although it may not always appear so.
Child Bereavement UK's resource 'A pupil's perspective' helps to think through how children and young peole might react in different ways and need different types of support.