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Grieving NJ School-Children Falling Through The Cracks [AUDIO]

A new survey finds many Jersey schools don’t really know how to help kids that are grieving over the loss of a loved one.

(Flickr: bterrycompton)

The poll – conducted by the New York Life Foundation and the National Alliance for Grieving Children – found many youngsters who lost a parent, a sibling or a close friend gave their schools a “C” grade or lower for helping them deal with their loss; and nearly one in four assigned an “F.”

Dr. David Schonfeld, the Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says about 5 percent of kids lose a parent by the time they’re 16 years of age and at least 90 percent of children experience the loss of a family member or friend by the time they finish high school.

“Part of what we need to be able to do is to make sure that all educators and all school personnel receive some basic training on how to be supportive to individuals who have lost someone they care about” says Dr. Schonfeld, “training that individuals have is quite varied and generally quite limited.”

He says many teachers and other school personnel don’t really know what do to when a student suffers this kind of loss, and “we should look at mechanisms by which we can encourage educators of our children to have some training in how to support them around grief and loss and trauma.”

Dr. Schonfeld points out needs do vary over time, and they are more acute right after the loss has occurred – and most children will be functioning well within a reasonable period of time after the death has occurred , but we need to realize, “you don’t get over the death of a close family member of friend – there isn’t a period where you go back to either forgetting that it happened or your life being exactly the same…so it’s not that children get stuck – or can’t continue with their work at school or their personal lives, but they never get completely over it- so we need to make sure schools recognize the fact that there will be some lingering concerns that children will have and lingering reactions, and that they need to be able to be supportive over a long period of time.”

He says children may face acute needs for at least one academic year – and there will be some significant impact in their functioning…but that doesn’t mean after that year has passed they no longer benefit from support or concern or empathy.”

He also says a lot people feel very uncomfortable saying anything at all – even right after the death has taken place – and  a lot of time adults-for well intentioned reasons for the most part- are afraid to even acknowledge that the loss has occurred – that it might upset the child – a lot of teachers and other school personnel just don’t even say anything – and that silence can be very overwhelming to children and make them feel quite isolated…what you need to do is have conversations with the child and let them know if they have any concerns or they would benefit from any assistance, you understand that, and you’re available to help them – and you need communications with adults in their household – and they may have suggestions about how to support.”

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