Chapter 2: When a family member is dying
Communicating with the student
“I didn’t want all the other kids to know but I’m glad Mrs. Nunez knew. She helped me keep things private by finding things for me to do in the school, so I was busy and didn’t have to face all the other kids out in the yard. It helped a bit”. – Student
Your first communication with a student about a dying family member is an important opportunity to begin build trust and become part of their support system.
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If the family and student have agreed to share information with your other students, ask if you can help to figure out how to respond to questions. Responses might include: “My brother has cancer”. “My mom has an illness called ALS”. “I don’t feel like talking about it right now, thank you”.
Often children, especially teens, might initially talk about something not directly related to the illness, such as a general conflict with a friend, before they’ll open up about feeling misunderstood by their friend when they talk about a family member’s illness. Follow their lead and continue to build trust.
See also:The 4 C’s for more information about common concerns of children who are experiencing the dying or death of someone in their lives.