Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Death of a Parent

Our crisis counseling team and a very caring teacher, spent last week responding to the crisis of a sudden death of a student’s parent. In a situation like this, there should be a single point of contact at school and a designated family member for communication purposes.  The school should not insert itself into the family; the school's role is to support the child. The child was in school every day and required support through the toughest week of this youngster’s life.  Five percent of children lose a parent to death by age 16.  At a time like this, it is critical to give the child as much control as possible.  The child should help decide who is told, how sympathy will be expressed at school, and if the child wants to be present when the news is delivered.  Because the child who lost a parent a week ago was very young, I insisted a letter go home to the parents of students in the class the night before I spoke to the class about what had happened.  Having a classmate lose a parent rocks the security of all children in the class. Also other children who have had significant losses or have a parent battling a serious illness need to be informed.  If possible, this type of difficult news needs to be delivered by parents who can reassure their own children that if anything would happen to them there is a plan in place. Our crisis team functioned well this week and we were careful to debrief one another daily.  A crisis takes so much extra energy so were are all happy we had a three day weekend to recover.

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