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The following letter was sent home with all students 10/18/13

posted Oct 18, 2013, 3:39 PM by Forrest Ransdell   [ updated Feb 21, 2014, 5:37 AM by Stacey Rust-Belforti ]

Dear Parents, Guardians and Members of the Parkside Community:

I write today to share sad news.    The Parkside Community suffered a loss the evening of 10/17/13.  A  Parkside student unexpectedly passed-on.  While official details are not available, a plan was implemented to help students, staff and our greater community deal with the loss.  

You need to know what was done today to support students, staff and the community.  Staff were informed of the situation in a series of short staff meetings before school.  Best practices for responding to this type of event  tell us that sharing accurate and honest information with students is important.  All period A teachers were given a set of talking-points to share with students.  Each teacher took time to share accurate and known information and to allow time for students to  process  the news as was needed.  Details were not available and were not shared with students.  

Support was available for students and staff.  Counselors  from 5 Manchester schools were on-site throughout the day.   Students sought support as needed.  Support took place in group and individual settings.  Staff were provided with resources to help them both deal with the situation personally and process it with students.  In addition, resources were provided to two community groups to which the student was involved in the form of counseling presence at an evening community group event as well as any support requested from the student’s former school.  

The Parkside Community will continue to have resources available for students, staff and the community.  In this time of grief and sadness, watch out for your kids and the other children in our community who may exhibit signs of stress or angst.  Please do not hesitate to contact Parkside for  needed referrals or assistance.  

On Behalf of the Parkside Community and with Deepest Regards,

Forrest Ransdell

Principal, Middle School at Parkside

Helping Children Cope

The following tips will help teachers, parents, and other caregivers support children who have experienced the loss of parents, friends, or loved ones. Some of these recommendations come from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado.

• Allow children to be the teachers about their grief experiences: Give children the opportunity to tell their story and be a good listener.

• Don’t assume that every child in a certain age group understands death in the same way or with the same feelings: All children are different and their view of the world is unique and shaped by different experiences.  (Developmental information is provided below.)

• Grieving is a process, not an event: Parents and schools need to allow adequate time for each child to grieve in the manner that works for that child. Pressing children to resume “normal” activities without the chance to deal with their emotional pain may prompt additional problems or negative reactions.

• Don’t lie or tell half-truths to children about the tragic event: Children are often bright and sensitive. They will see through false information and wonder why you do not trust them with the truth. Lies do not help the child through the healing process or help develop effective coping strategies for life’s future tragedies or losses.

• Help all children, regardless of age, to understand loss and death: Give the child information at the level that he/she can understand.   Loss and death are both part of the cycle of life that children need to understand.

• Encourage children to ask questions about loss and death: Adults need to be less anxious about not knowing all the answers. Treat questions with respect and a willingness to help the child find his or her own answers.  Don’t assume that children always grieve in an orderly or predictable way: We all grieve in different ways and there is no one “correct” way for people to move through the grieving process.

• Let children know that you really want to understand what they are feeling or what they need: Sometimes children are upset but they cannot tell you what will be helpful. Giving them the time and encouragement to share their feelings with you may enable them to sort out their feelings.  

• Children will need long-lasting support: The more losses the child or adolescent suffers, the more difficult it will be to recover.   Try to develop multiple supports for children who suffer significant losses. Keep in mind that grief work is hard: It is hard work for adults and hard for children as well.

• Understand that grief work is complicated: Death  brings forth many issues that are difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend.  Grieving may also be complicated by a need for  vengeance or justice and by the lack of resolution of the current situation

• Be aware of your own need to grieve: Focusing on the children in your care is important, but not at the expense of your emotional needs. Adults who have lost a loved one will be far more able to help children work through their grief if they get help themselves. For some families, it may be important to seek family grief counseling, as well as individual sources of support.

• Middle School: Children at this level have the cognitive understanding to comprehend death as a final event that results in the cessation of all bodily functions. They may not fully grasp the abstract concepts discussed by adults or on the TV news but are likely to be guided in their thinking by a concrete understanding of justice. They may experience a variety of feelings and emotions, and their expressions may include acting out or self-injurious behaviors as a means of coping with their anger, vengeance and despair.