What can we do for our students?
What is the best way to help students in your classroom? As an educator, what can we do to best help our students grieve?
Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief is a great theory on the psyche during the grieving period. It gives wonderful insight into how and why the person acts the way they do when they experience a loss. Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief are useful in applying to the classroom to help students deal with their grief. The five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Gregory, 2017). These stages happen when a person is trying to deal with a death or deal with someone dying. This theory gives a very specific breakdown of signs to watch for as a person progresses through their grief. As a teacher, it’s important to be on the lookout for these signs, so that you can be aware of how your student is working through the grieving process.
One thing that you should do as a teacher while when you have a student dealing with grief, is to keep in contact with all staff that may have access to this student. Communication with different people who help support the student is crucial during this critical time in a child’s development as they work through their emotions when dealing with a loss of this nature (Porter, 2016). This step is very important because it will help you and the others involved in the students well-being keep each other apprised of what stage in grief the student is going through so that you can act accordingly.
Some additional behaviors that students may exhibit while dealing with loss and coincide with Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grief are: acting more childlike in their behaviors, a detachment from their emotions, problematic classroom behavior, and difficulty understanding the content or repeating their questions (Richert, 2017). Be on the watch for these behaviors and help guide your students through them, support them, and be there for them as needed.
Some strategies to incorporate in your classroom
- Giving your students the opportunity to tell you what’s going on and how they’re feeling. By letting them come to you, you don’t have to push them to feel uncomfortable in telling you more than they want. (Richert, 2017)
- Talk to your student about making changes to their school work/schedule to best help them in their time of need. The student will know what they can handle, and by keeping communication open, the student will appreciate what you’re trying to accomplish as their teacher. (Richert, 2017)
- Be understanding. Everyone grieves in different ways and children grieve in an entirely different way than an adult might. While you may not understand why they’re grieving in the way they do, you should be understanding that they are grieving and allow them to handle their grief in their way. (Richert, 2017)
- Understanding the stages of grief is huge. By recognizing the signs, the teacher can act in appropriate manner for how the student is grieving.
How the Stage of Grief May Look in Your Classroom
|Stage||How it Will Look in the Classroom||How to Deal With It|
|Denial||The student will refuse to discuss what happened. They may pretend as if nothing has happened and act completely normal.||
Let the student be. When they're ready, they will come to you. Be patient and kind. Let them deal with their feelings.
|Anger||The student may act out. They may become more agressive, cause fights, be generally disruptive.||It's important in this stage to remain calm. While that is hard to do at times, you must maintain composure. There must still be consequences for the student who acts this way, but make sure to enfore the consequences after class and alone with the student and their parent/guardian.|
|Bargaining||The student may be distracted. They may regress to a younger age when they felt more safe and secure.||Allow the child the freedom to regress. They need to feel secure in a tumultuous time. This stage should pass and they'll go back to their new normal selves. If the stage persists, talk with the parent/guardian. The student may need a therapist to resolve the issue.|
|Depression||The students can withdraw from classroom activity, friends, completing assignments, caring about their grades, etc.||Check in with them often to be sure the depression isn't escalating and just to see how your student is doing. They may only want to say that they're, "fine," and that's ok. But watch for signs that their depression is escalating. Teach stress management strategies, and continue to monitor.|
|Acceptance||This is the student's new normal. They have accepted that their loved one is gone and not coming back.||Continue to check in with them regularly to ensure that they are healing. Be there if they need to talk.|