Are Schools Doing Enough for Grieving Children?

A survey suggests that bereaved children rarely get the help they need at school following a loss — with 25% giving their schools an ‘F’ in emotional support.

 

An exception is highlighting a general trend that schools are failing in helping their students cope with bereavement and maintaining studies effectively through that difficult period.
Angelo L. Tomaso school in Warren, New Jersey is one of the exceptions, continuing to provide emotional support to the bereaved daughters three years after their father passed away.

Support from the school started immediately after Marc Bruno died, and “it’s been wonderful,” says Sandy Bruno, 49, his widow.

However a survey by the New York Life Foundation in partnership with National Alliance for Grieving Children found that this compassionate treatment was a rarity.

“A number of schools are doing a great job,” says Andy McNiel, executive director of the alliance. But nearly half the kids gave their schools a “C” grade or lower for helping them deal with their loss; nearly one in four assigned an “F.”

While some schools organise specific programs aimed at letting bereaved children know there is support, even appointing an adult point of contact for them, others struggle to cope, largely due to having received no training in counseling or coping with the difficulties of educating such children.

• 75% said they were sad. “Even when they get support, the sadness doesn’t disappear,” says McNiel. The kids were, on average, two years past a family member’s death.
• 72% said the death made them feel “life is not fair.” These kids “are now aware of something about life that other kids are not,” McNiel says. “That makes them feel different.”
• 39% worry a surviving guardian will die. “If they can’t get their parents on the phone at the end of the school day, they worry,” Park says.

It should be noted that the survey sample was only 531 bereaved children and the sample pool consisted only of children at community bereavement centers. While extrapolation of these early findings to more general sets would be dubious, it does indicate that further research should be done to ensure children aren’t being academically failed by institutions when bereaved and so suffering a cruel double blow.

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