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Tough Conversations - Death, Trauma, and Grief

A tragic loss may affect your child in a variety of ways. In times of need, the well-trained Klein ISD Critical Incident Response Team springs into action to support our students, staff, and community. Should you wish to share this information with your child, the Klein ISD Counseling and Whole Student Wellness Department has enclosed some suggestions that may prove helpful to you as you discuss death:

  • Your child needs to feel that they are allowed to express their thoughts and feelings regarding the incident without the fear that they will be judged negatively. Listen carefully and affirm that you understand what they are feeling and thinking.

  • Continue to comfort your child by sharing you will be there for them, and you will see them through this period of grief.

  • You may need to spend additional individualized time with your child. Try to structure your time with them by playing games, having discussions and going places. During your time together, focus a majority of your attention on your child.

  • Don’t be hesitant to ask your child how they are coping, even though you may expect an answer of, “fine.” The fact that you ask will be important to your child, even though they may not show this.

  • Keep in touch with your child’s teacher to monitor their academic performance.

  • Regardless of your child’s response to you, reassurance is comforting to them that you are there if they need any assistance. You may want to outline just how you can help them (e.g. by talking or getting professional help).

Ways to Help Your Child and Help Yourself at the Same Time

Terror on Top of Grief—Trauma Reactions in Children

Trauma reactions are different from grief reactions. Only recently has it been verified that children are vulnerable to experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder once attributed to only adult survivors of war. These reactions appear in children following disasters, acts of violence, sudden unanticipated death, critical injuries, car fatalities, house fires, drownings and sudden unexpected incidents involving family or friends.

The one word that best describes grief is sadness; the one word that best describes trauma is terror. Terror induces reactions not often seen in children who are grieving.

Signs That a Child Needs Professional Help

Any of these signs may be present initially in attention if these persist over time.

If your are concerned about a child, talk with the school counselor and parents to see if they are seeing the same signs. Try not to overstate your case. Most parents will welcome the honest observations and concern. It is helpful to have a list of resources for them, should they concur and wish to seek professional help.

Any signs of long-term or clinical depression are red flags, as are your own “gut feelings” about whether a child is really struggling with more than just the profound sadness which typifies “normal” grief.

What Students Need in Times of Tragedy

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