Chapter 2: When a family member is dying
Making a plan with the family and student
“It was good we had a plan in place. It was hard when the call came in that Sanjit’s father had died but at least I knew exactly who to call to come pick him up and that I wasn’t to share what had happened until after he was dismissed and picked up”. – Teacher
Click on the arrows for some tips on making a plan with the family and student.
Take the age and privacy needs of the student into consideration. This will be vital in ensuring that the child feels well supported.
Include the child in the creation of this plan. This will help build and maintain trust.
If the child is uncomfortable with this plan, encourage parents to explore their child’s concerns.
Revisit the conversation from time to time to stay up to date with any changes.
Let the parent(s) know that you are someone who can be a consistent part of their child’s support system.
Encourage them to let their child know they are welcome to ask questions or share their worries with you.
Develop a two-way communication plan that will allow you and the parent to share information about any behavioural changes or concerns.
Initially, older students may prefer that parents have less contact with their teachers. Encourage parents to talk with their child about why information-sharing with the school is important – for example, to create a supportive environment or allow for academic accommodations when/if necessary.
It’s best to make plans about some things early on rather than when a death is imminent, and the family is likely to be experiencing heightened stress. Encourage the family to make a plan with the student about their wishes at or near the time of death.
Click on each arrow to view some considerations when planning with the family and student.
Does the student want to be with the family or in school when the person is in their final hours of life?
If the student is at school, do they want to be informed right away when the death happens? How and by whom? Or do they want to wait to find out when they get home?
Does the student want to go home or remain in school?
If they want someone to pick them up, who will this be? Encourage the family and student to identify a few individuals (e.g., friends, extended family) who might be more available at this time than immediate family members.
Ask the family to let the student know that whatever their decision, it will be supported, and that they can change it at any time.
Make a plan for continuing communication with the family. This helps to ensure that you and they are sharing information as agreed and maintaining a consistent approach in supporting your student. Notify the rest of the school staff of any relevant details of this plan, including the identity of anyone that has been designated to pick up the student when death is imminent or has occurred.