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How to Help Students Cope with Trauma and Grief

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Show Notes:

I'll admit it: the most common experience I’ve had when it comes to helping children cope with trauma and grief is when they’ve lost a pet.

Maybe this is true for you as well.

Never, in a million years, did I think we would need to be talking about how to help children deal with death on such a broad scale. 

However, 2020 dealt us a whole lot of unwelcome surprises, and I know you've been asked to rise and grow to learn to deal with a host of different things that you likely never expected you've have to deal with as an educator.

Several teachers inside my private Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook group have reached out and asked for help because one of their students had recently had a parent or a grandparent pass away due to Covid, and this wasn’t something they had ever dealt with before now.

So, I knew that this was a topic we should talk about because unfortunately, with the holidays just having passed and despite continuous warnings by the CDC not to travel, millions of Americans chose to take this risk.

Now, we are hearing from doctors and researchers across the country, warning us that the darkest days are still ahead of us in terms of the number of cases and ultimately deaths in the U.S.

So, unfortunately, the chances of you needing to help one of your students through this in the coming months is likely increased as well.

Let's dive in and learn what the research says about helping children cope with trauma and death, and talk about practical, actionable steps you can take inside your own classroom tomorrow to help children through this very challenging time in their lives.

Inside this episode, you will learn:

  •  What 3 factors determine how a child reacts to trauma or death.

  • What research says about how children react to death differently than adults.

  • How to handle reaching out to families: what to say and what to do.

  • Simple, easy strategies for helping children deal with strong emotions.

  • How to bring comfort to children inside your classroom (when you might not be able to give them a hug).

  • A creative and developmentally appropriate way to help kids keep the memory of the person (or pet) alive.

  • My favorite books for helping children to cope with grief (please see the links below).

  • The most important thing to remember (though it might not feel like it right now).

As challenging as this is right now, please remember that you do not need to go through any of it alone. I encourage you to reach out for help inside our private Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook group so you can get the help and support that you need.

And as always, remember: just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

πŸ’› Lori 

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at


For more support and resources to help your students cope with trauma and grief, please visit:

Helping Children Deal With Grief

10 Ways to Help a Grieving Child

Helping Your Child Deal with Death

Helping A Child Cope With The Death Of A Parent

Supporting a Child Through Grief and Loss

Tips that Will Help Your Kids with Bereavement


Books to help children cope with the loss of a loved one:

Click on the images to view these books on Amazon. Please note that if you purchase at this link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


The Memory Box

"I'm scared I'll forget you...

From the perspective of a young child, Joanna Rowland artfully describes what it is like to remember and grieve a loved one who has died. The child in the story creates a memory box to keep mementos and written memories of the loved one, to help in the grieving process." - Amazon 

Ida, Always

"A beautiful, honest portrait of loss and deep friendship told through the story of two iconic polar bears.

Gus lives in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city, and he spends his days with Ida. Ida is right there. Always.

Then one sad day, Gus learns that Ida is very sick, and she isn’t going to get better. The friends help each other face the difficult news with whispers, sniffles, cuddles, and even laughs. Slowly Gus realizes that even after Ida is gone, she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the memories that live in their favorite spots." - Amazon

No Matter What

"I’m grim and grumpy,” says Small to Large, “and I don’t think you love me at all.”

But nothing could be further from the truth--and Large knows just how to reassure Small in this warm and tender story about a child’s biggest worry and a parent’s endless capacity for love." - Amazon



I Miss You: A First Look at Death

"When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. I Miss You helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one's death. Titles in the sensitively presented A First Look At series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The story lines are simple and direct--easily accessible to younger children. There are full-color illustrations on every page." - Amazon


My Many Colored Days

"Using a spectrum of vibrant colors and a menagerie of animals, this unique book does for the range of human moods and emotions what Oh, the Places You'll Go! does for the human life cycle. Here is a wonderful way for parents to talk with children about their feelings. With Johnson and Fancher's atmospheric, large-scale paintings bursting off the pages, Dr. Seuss's vision is brought to life. This rare and beautiful book is bound to appeal to both the innocent young and the most sophisticated seniors." - Amazon


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