As summer nears its end, children and teens may feel worried, irritable, or overwhelmed about returning to school. Our friends at The Dougy Center offer these ideas to help ease the transition from summer break back to the classroom.
- Let them tell their story. Ask the child what information they would like to be shared with teachers or classmates. Talk with them about the power of being able to tell their own story, rather than people finding out about the death in other ways.
- Make a "difficult day" safety plan. These difficult days could be the deceased's birthday, the anniversary of the death, and any first or last event since the death. What can the child do when they feel overwhelmed? Leave the classroom, have a short break with the school counselor, or go outside for fresh air. Having a plan in place can be reassuring even if never used.
- Find ways for children and teens to check in with you or other caregivers. Talk with your child and school staff about how/when they can check in with you or others throughout the day.
- Plan drop-off and pick-up routines. Ask ahead of time and discuss different options. Some will want to keep things the same, others may want something new.
- Talk about after-school rituals. Think about what after-school activities are affected by the death. Give your child a chance to talk about things they will miss and the opportunity to be a part of coming up with new alternate activities.
- Address challenges with concentration, memory, and school assignments. Work with the child and teacher to develop ideas to help with staying focused and organized.
- Make time for recreation, play, and friends. When things get stressful, make plans for connection and fun. Play is how children process the world around them. Dedicating time to connect with the child is important too - such as going for walk daily after supper, reading a book together every night, or having a weekly pizza and movie night.
Returning to school is a significant experience for every student, particularly for those who are grieving. No matter how your child feels about the start of school, we hope these ideas and suggestions will provide you with a good foundation for talking with them about their concerns and finding ways for them to feel supported and understood.
For more information about our peer support groups, school-based programming, or additional resources for supporting children who are grieving, contact us at 419.360.4939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.