Initial Steps

For children who are school-age and experience the death of a younger sibling, the school environment can play an important role in the grieving process for a child. The way children grieve depends on their developmental age and can vary widely. It is not uncommon for a child to begin acting out in school, or become more withdrawn. It is critical that the people directly involved in supporting the child in the school environment, such as teachers and coaches, are well-equipped to help the sibling cope with their grief. 


When there is an infant or young child death, it is important that the family notify the principal and teachers of any additional children they have with facts surrounding the death. Not only does this help to prepare the staff to work with the sibling and prepare for any changes in behavior, but it can help to suppress rumors from other students and teachers.


Working with Siblings


Teachers should be aware that dealing with grief can be a difficult process for a child.  They may need to spend time away from school for a little bit or they may begin to have difficulty concentrating. It is crucial that the teachers remain patient with the sibling and be understanding of their needs. Working with a student who has experienced such a loss can be a challenge. It is important to not be overly sympathetic, but the child must not be avoided entirely.

If a teacher or coach notices that a child has become very withdrawn during a period when socialization is critical for proper development, they may be in a position to spend additional energy on the sibling or refer them to a school counselor. For more information on how to work with children who are grieving the death of a younger sibling, please visit the Siblings page.

For more information on supporting the grief of children, click here

This information has been adapted from: Grollman, EA. (1995). Bereaved Children and Teens: A Support Guide for Parents and Professionals. Beacon Press, Boston. 70-71. Print.