My youngest daughter had a rough time during 4th grade in school. It was a combination of several things, but the underlying reason was that she was still dealing with grief … even though it was hard to tell that from how she looked or acted. That’s often the way with grieving children.
Her teacher said she always seemed happy enough to be at school, so she had a hard time accepting the fact that my daughter was actually suffering some depression during the year. The teacher’s request – have her tested for ADHD. Why do so many teachers just naturally go THERE?!?! Sure, my daughter was having trouble focusing at times in school, but her physician and two therapists both confirmed that this was NOT a child who was ADHD. It was grief. But the school and the school’s Special Ed “specialist” didn’t really buy into that. So that year was a little discouraging and stressful for both of us.
Grieving children need teachers that are willing to help them work through their grief!
The reason, I found out later, that my daughter seemed so content as school and never let her emotions show? She felt like no one at school – no teacher, no administrator, no one – cared how she was feeling inside. She thought it was best to bottle up her feelings, put on a happy face, and pretend to everyone at school that she was fine. And then I ask myself – how many times have I done the exact thing at work, or at a family gathering. “Best not to show any signs of depression or doubt. Just put on a smile, and if anyone asks just say, “No, we’re doing fine.”
We are still dealing with the problems caused by that teacher and that Special Ed “specialist.” My daughter has never regained that spark when it comes to school. She still questions her ability to perform at school. She still shies away from tackling difficult tasks in her school work, worrying that she won’t measure up to her teacher’s standards.
I guess my point in writing this post is this: grieving children have different needs in the classroom, and teachers need to be able to understand the grieving process in kids and help their learning during this time. It’s common for kids who are grieving to be distracted; anyone who has grieved can tell you that it’s hard work! It takes a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy to cope with grieving the loss of a loved one AND to function as a normal person on a day-to-day basis. Add into that the stress of a classroom filled with kids and teachers who don’t “get” what you’re going through – and no wonder grieving kids seem “spacey” and “out of it” at times.
And the worst part was being told that, “It’s been a year. She should be over it by now.”
Grief is not experienced on a timetable. There is no fixed time limit for grief – we all grieve differently, and at our own pace. Grieving children shouldn’t be overlooked, and their needs should be met.
If you are the parent of a grieving child, you may be called upon to be their advocate when it comes to the school system. Many schools are very helpful (and most try to be helpful) but you may need to educate a few teachers and administrators (and yes, even the occasional special education specialist) about how a child grieves, what is normal, etc.
Stand up for your child, and make sure that they aren’t being unfairly labeled. Make sure that their needs are being met in the classroom. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
And let me assure you – it does get better!
Oh, and just a side note: neither that year’s teacher nor the Special Ed “specialist” are employed at my daughter’s school any longer. Both moved on to other schools after that year. I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS! But I know God did … I prayed that anyone who did not have my child’s best interests in mind would be removed from her life. So … prayer works, and my daughter has never had to deal with them again. 🙂