Mark and Jackie Barden hug their daughter Natalie, 11, before she goes to school in Newtown, Conn., on May 23, 2013. Daniel Barden, their son, was among the school children killed in Newtown in the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)

At any given time there are millions of young people in schools across the country who are grieving over some significant loss in their lives — and often the adults around them aren’t sure what to say or do to help them. There is a new Web site, grievingstudents.com,that offers an online toolkit for educators and school professionals ways to help suffering children.

The site is the work of the Coalition to Support Grieving Student, created by the New York Life Foundation and comprised of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and 10 leading professional K-12 organizations, members of which include teachers, principals, administrators, social workers, counselors and nurses who work in schools. It was created in partnership with Scholastic Inc.

According to the coalition, approximately 1 in 20 children in the United States will lose a parent by the time they reach age 16 — and most will experience a significant loss by the time they leave high school. Grief affects every part of a young person’s life, including academic performance, but it is too often ignored in an academic environment where achievement and test scores have become the key metric for success.

The Web site has modules of information in areas such as what to say and not to say to grieving children and how to provide support to youngsters over time. For example:

not to say1
not to say2


 

A 2012 survey of educators conducted by the New York Life Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers  found that majority of teachers said they frequently saw a deterioration in academic performance and classroom behavior in students who had lost a parental figure. The survey also found that while nearly 70 percent of teachers reported having at least one grieving student in their classrooms, only 7 percent had been given any training on how to support them.

A release by the coalition on grievingstudents.com quotes David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and a leading childhood bereavement expert, saying schools can play a key role in helping grieving students mend: “At home, a child may be reluctant to upset family members who are also grieving. Schools are a place for bereaved children to receive support from trusted adults who have a safe emotional distance from their loss.”

The founding member organizations of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students are the School Superintendents’ Association, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association Health Information Network and the School Social Work Association of America. The lead founding members are the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and the New York Life Foundation.

Here’s the full module on what to say and what not to say to grieving students: