Now that kids are settled back in school, how do we advocate for them and support their grief in school?
Here are some suggestions (thanks to Cathy for sharing):
- Learn your child’s teacher’s emotional style and communicate accordingly.
- Have a daily “back and forth book” that the teacher writes in at the end of the day, and you (the parent or the caregiver) write in to send back to the teacher. This is a great tool to keep everyone in the loop with upcoming Sad-anniversaries, reminders that Father’s or Mother’s Day is coming up, etc.
- Write out your story before you have to meet with the teacher. Explain how your spouse died, where you are at emotionally (mom and dad count, too), or tell the teacher YOUR strengths (“I love math, but I struggle with projects – this is what my spouse helped little Suzie with, please be patient with me. I’m just one parent and still grieving, and homework can’t be prioritized sometimes”.)
- Give yourself a grief day, mental health day, or whatever with your child if they need it. Schedule it around Sad Anniversaries or popular holidays that might make going to school really sad.
- Skip events if you don’t feel you can do it. For example, family dances are hard, watching all those families who have moms and dads can be stressful. Discuss -as a family- your strategy if you attend events. Recognize that it might be tough if the kids want to go.
- Remind teachers that even though they aren’t counselors, they still have a duty to care for your child’s emotional well-being this year.
- Remind your teacher that talking about the loss won’t make your child “more” sad. It will bring it into the open; it will give your child a voice in their grieving. Remind them that it is the death itself, not the conversation, that is upsetting.
- Children like talking about both of their parents. Let’s not forget that they do have both a mom and a dad who loved them.
- If your child has a new stepparent, make sure the teacher understands that the child and family are still grieving; it just looks different. The child still misses the parent who has died.