Are you worried about your child returning to school following the death of a loved one?
It’s important for children to settle back into the routine of school and seeing their friends after suffering a loss, however you may still be feeling uncertain of how they’ll cope once they return to class.
Many parents worry that they’re sending their child back too soon; that their minds may not be focused on what they are doing in class, and that they won’t know how to deal with other children asking how they are.
In my experience as a child bereavement counsellor, I’d like to reassure you that many children are glad to have a little bit of focus and normality in their lives after experiencing a loss, and going back to school can be a welcome distraction.
However, below I’m going to give you some advice in order to help fully prepare your child for returning to school after a death in the family.
Speak to the school first
The first thing I’d recommend doing before your child returns to school is speaking to your child’s teacher (or perhaps your child’s guidance counsellor, if they are in high school). Explain to them what has happened and how your child is currently coping.
The teacher may opt to speak to the class before your child returns, just so their fellow classmates understand that someone has died and that they’ll maybe need to lend extra support to your child, as it can be difficult coming back to school after such an event.
The children may even have some questions themselves, which the teacher can help get out of the way before your child returns, as your child may just want to play with their friends and forget everything for a while without having to answer lots of questions.
As a teacher myself, I’ve had to explain to my class on a few occasions why one of their classmates is off, and usually they know what has happened. I let them ask questions and we also try to come up with ideas of nice things we can do to help our friend when they return to school.
TIP: If you are a teacher reading this and are worried about what to say to the child in fear of upsetting them, don’t be; it’s better to acknowledge and say something, rather than say nothing at all. Remember, the worst has already happened.
Talk to your child about returning to school
It’s also important to talk to your child and see how they are feeling about going back to school. Depending on how they are coping with the loss, they may be keen to return to class quickly and see their friends – or, they may keep asking to stay home and need a little more encouragement.
Some children may even need some boundaries set; children like boundaries and if they are taken away then it can be another huge change and they may not be entirely sure how to deal with that.
If your child is anxious or worried about returning to school, a good idea is to tell them they can talk to the teacher and if things get too much at any point, they can come home. If you’re unable to do this due to work commitments, try to get a friend’s house on standby, just in case.
Try to keep things as normal as possible for your child, and let them know who they can speak to at school if they are upset at any point. Reassure them that their teachers should be understanding and will speak to them and acknowledge what has happened.
When to seek professional guidance
You may be wondering if your child would benefit from seeing a bereavement counsellor, however this really depends on the circumstances and how close your child was to the person who has died. It may also depend how others in your family are coping with the recent loss.
My usual advice is that if your child has lost a parent or sibling, a counsellor could really help them to cope and to open up about this huge change in their life, whilst allowing them to work through their grief in a safe environment.
TIP: The website Winston’s Wish is a great resource for helping to support your child with various aspects of their grief, including returning to school.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ve found this blog post helpful when supporting your child in returning to school and getting back into a routine. It’s so important for children to get back to a bit of normality, even though this may seem difficult at first.
Remember, the school should be happy to speak to you and do everything they can to help your child settle back into classes without too much disruption.
If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with your loved one’s ashes, you’re welcome to read our ebook: ‘6 Things You Can Do With Your Loved One’s Ashes’.