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Classroom Management to Help Students Deal with Grief

Janelle Cox

The loss of a loved one, a divorce, or any unexpected difficult situation can be extremely hard to deal with, especially when you’re a young child. Schools and teachers play an important role in helping children cope with all of these situations. Any new adjustment to a child’s life should be handled with sensitivity, because it’s a stressful time in the child’s life. In order to support children during these difficult times, it’s crucial that schools and parents use a teacher’s classroom management to work together to ensure the students’ mental wellbeing. Here are a few classroom management ideas that you can use to help any student who’s going through a difficult time in your classroom right now.

Classroom Management: Be a Constant in their Life

The most important thing that you can do for the student right now is to provide the same structure and consistency that you always have. You are the constant right now in their life. Children thrive on routine, and since their home life has changed, it’s essential that you keep their school life the same. While the rest of their life may feel like it’s falling apart, your consistency can be the one thing that they can count on.

Use Compassion

We all go through tough times at one point of our lives or another, so you know how important it is to be able to lean on someone at these times. Children who are going through a difficult time right now most likely have no idea how to deal with what is going on. Your compassion can help them through it. These children will need your empathy and love, especially when dealing with issues in the home such as a death.

Always Be Available for the Student

When a child is going through a difficult time such as their parents’ divorce, they need a neutral party to talk and vent to. Make yourself readily available, so the child in the situation knows there is someone that is on their side, and is there for them. Offer to meet with the student before, during, or after school to talk: Anything that shows the student you can there for them will be a huge help. An extra smile, hug, or even just alone time with the child will do a lot for their wellbeing.

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Communicate with their Parents

Be sure to have an open communication with the child’s parents. For students whose parents are going through a divorce, make sure to encourage the parents not to criticize the other parent in front of the child. This can be detrimental to a child. If a student is dealing with a death in the family, then make sure to keep in contact with the parents and keep them up-to-date on how the child is coping in school. The more you’re in contact with the parents, the better it will be for the child’s overall success in the classroom.

Help the Student Feel Valued

When parents are going through a divorce, it’s important that students know that they are still valued. While the parents are wrapped up in their own situation, the child may feel neglected or unwanted, so it’s important for the teacher to provide opportunities for students to build upon their strengths. You can do this by providing leadership roles where students feel they are in charge, and are still an important asset to the class.

It’s OK to Treat the Student Differently

When a student’s life is in turmoil, it’s OK to reduce your expectations and treat them differently. Real-life situations always trump school, and to expect a student that is going through a traumatic event in their home life to complete a project they were working on or take an exam at that time is just unfair. You don’t have to excuse them from all of their work, but you can make it a little easier on them by lightening their load, and giving them more time to complete their work. All you have to do is just take a moment to take the student aside, and discuss their needs.

Base Your Decisions on the Needs of the Student

Just as a doctor treats her patients for their individual symptoms, a teacher must treat each of their individual students based upon their specific needs. When you learn that a student is going through a situation in their home life, then you must learn as much as you can about the situation so you can make your decisions based off of what you know. Once you learn what the situation is, then you can be able to meet the needs of the child who is going through a difficult time. What’s going on in the child’s home life is much more important than checking off a standard in school. It’s OK to hold the student accountable for their work, just as long as you are flexible about when it will get done. However, if there is a death at home, then students should not have to be held accountable for their work.

Your continued support and compassion can help any student cope with any situation that they may be having at home. Keeping their minds busy and being flexible to the situation can also help them in the healing process.

How do you use classroom management to help your students deal with difficult types of situations going on at home? Do you have any advice you would like to share? Please feel free leave to your suggestions, advice, tips and comments in the section below, we’d love to hear from you.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.