The bereaved child

26th May 2000 at 01:00
It's common for children to suffer loss - of a grandparent, a relative, a beloved pet, perhaps of a parent. Yet teachers often feel ill-prepared.

* You must talk to the child. To say nothing is to give the message that the child's loss is not important to you. As a teacher you have the skill - all you need is confidence.

* Where a close relative has died, talk to the family and the child about how and when they want you to tell the class.

* A bereaved child may not know what reactions are appropriate, especially if he or she has been "protected" from the family's grief. Let the child know - explicitly and y your reactions - that it's all right to cry and to talk.

* Teachers and parents want to convince themselves that the child is all right. They say, "He's coping well," when in fact he is bottling it all up.

* It's normal for the child to be harbouring what seem like disturbing questions, spoken or unspoken, about death, funerals, graves and bodies. At some point an adult will need to give frank answers.

* In the medium term a bereaved child - like a bereaved adult - can be angry and anti-social. If it goes on, or becomes serious, seek outside help.

Gerald Haigh.

Next week: avoiding PE

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