When Should My Child Return to School After the Death of a Loved One?

When Should My Child Return to School After the Death of a Loved One?

Kenny Scott | Sep 29, 2016 | Child bereavement

Are you feeling unsure of when your child should go back to school after the death of a loved one?

Perhaps you’re worried about sending your child back to school too early after suffering a loss, and you might be especially concerned about how they’ll cope when other children bring up the subject – and they will.

The quick answer is that there’s no right or wrong time for your child to go back to school after a loss, but below, I’m going to use my experience as a children’s grief counsellor to give you some guidance on how to decide.

When should my child go back to school?

Like I said above, there’s really no rule. Some children may want to go back to school the very next day and see their friends, whilst others might stay off a week, or may even go back a day or two after the funeral has taken place. This will really depend on your child and how they are feeling.

To help determine when your child should return to school, the best thing to do is to speak to them directly, and ask them if they’d like to go back to school and see their friends and teachers. See how they react.

Explain you’ve spoken to the teachers beforehand, and that it’s okay if they get upset – they can also have the option of going home if it gets too much. It’s often good for children to have the routine and normality of school, and it can be good for you as a parent to have a little space to get organised.

The most important thing is to give your child options and explain what is happening.

What if my child gets upset by other children?

You may be feeling worried about how your child will react when other children bring up the loss of your loved one or family member – this is a very common concern, but it’s also something you can prepare your child for.

Explain to your child that people will be concerned and may ask how they are. Most importantly, they’ll probably hear a lot of: “I’m sorry to hear about…” Not all children know how to respond to this, and it’s something I’ve come across time and time again.

After lots of discussion with the children I’ve worked with, we agreed the best thing to say was simply ‘thank you’. It really helps the child from feeling awkward in this situation, as a simple, effective ‘thank you’ is all that’s needed.

You might find that they want to speak to their friends about what’s happened, or perhaps their teacher – this is okay, too. You should encourage your child to be open and honest about their feelings, and speaking to someone like a friend or teacher can often really help them through the stages of grief.

What if I can’t keep my child off school?

There may be a number of reasons why you cannot keep your child off school for as long as you’d like; this could be because of childcare, or perhaps your child has important exams coming up and you’re worried their future will be affected.

One child I was working with lost their dad a few weeks before they sat their exams, and after a discussion with the teenager and their mother, we decided it would be best to just go for it in the exams, and focus hard on studying beforehand, safe in the knowledge they could always appeal under exceptional circumstances.

If you have work obligations and genuinely cannot arrange for someone to stay with your child during this difficult transitional period, speak to the school and explain that your child may be upset and need support, but to call if needed. Tell the child this, too, and perhaps have a friend’s house on standby, just in case.

TIP: If you’re worried about sending your child back too early, or your child isn’t coping well with school, talk to the teachers; they’ll understand. Arrange for your child’s friends to come by out of school – then it becomes less of a struggle to see them.


You have my deepest sympathies at this difficult time, and I hope this blog post has gone some way to giving you the help and support you need when deciding on the right time for your child to go back to school.

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‘.