Educational Comment from the Senior Leadership Team - Miss Daly
When someone dies in a community, whether the death is of an individual or someone known to a group, it has an affect and the response needs to be managed very carefully. At the beginning of this term, the Junior School learned of the death of a dear friend and colleague, Peter. His passing came as a shock to us all. We cannot take away the sadness felt, but we can acknowledge it and support each other through the experience. Young children often have a surprising capacity to deal with the truth. It is important to understand the impact bereavement can have on young children. Common reactions can include: anxiety, vivid memories, sleep difficulties, anger and physical complaints amongst other experiences. Communication, however, is the key to how children can be helped. Ways in which this can happen start with acknowledging the death and giving children the chance to talk and validate their feelings in a safe environment.
A heightened sense of anxiety is normal following a bereavement. The complex mixture of emotions can be very confusing and can feel quite scary for children. It is important to promote a sense of calm in order to help children to relax. Simple relaxation exercises, alongside opportunities to create timelines, share memories, draw pictures and read stories that guide children through the emotions are an important part of this process. As a school, simply carrying on with our usual day-to-day activities can help to support a grieving child. These familiar routines, both at school and home, can give children a sense of normality. Everyone, whether an adult or child, will grieve in their own way. It is important that assumptions about what an individual should be doing, how they should be feeling or what is going to help them are not made. There is no rule book. Children and young people mature at different rates and their understanding and responses to bereavement are likely to be based as much on their experience of life, as on their chronological age. Research conducted by Child Bereavement UK and common sense has shown that most grieving children do not need a ‘bereavement expert’, they need people around them who care.
Further support can be obtained from organisations such as Child Bereavement UK (www.childbereavementuk.org), and Winston’s Wish for younger children and families, who also offer a National Freephone Helpline that is manned by trained clinical practitioners and can be accessed on 08088 020 021. As well as this, Young Minds website is specifically for older pupils (KS3) and their families. Young Minds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people (http://www.youngminds.org.uk).
Head of Juniors