Home

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue we'll assume that you are happy to accept cookies.

Skip to main content

Advice and support for secondary school teachers

Normal reactions to a traumatic event

Following any distressing event it is quite normal to experience a range of reactions. Each person will respond in her/his own way. Students may show some of the following:

  • Not being able to concentrate or want to do school work or make decisions
  • Avoiding places, people or objects which remind them of the incident
  • Physical effects such as feeling unwell, headaches, listlessness or over activity
  • Nightmares, irritability Feelings of guilt and/or responsibility
  • Difficulty accepting events and how they have been affected e.g. appearing over brave
  • Changes in personality e.g. feeling depressed or isolated, becoming irritable or angry
  • Needing to go over and over the incident which can test the patience of those closest
  • Seeing or hearing the person who has died.

These reactions are all common responses and are usually short-lived, e.g. Up to four weeks. The majority of people will get over the experience with the support of family, friends and school

How to help your pupils

A traumatic event often leaves people feeling confused and unsettled, it is therefore very important to consider the following strategies

  • Listen to and try to understand your pupil’s views of the event
  • Give attention, reassurance and say things simply
  • Allow your pupils to talk about the event and express their feeling – give them reassurance and permission to feel upset
  • Check children’s understanding of the event
  • Answer pupil’s questions as truthfully as possible
  • Maintain daily routines both at home and at school
  • Encourage healthy eating, exercise and rest
  • Encourage resumption of social activities e.g. clubs
  • Let children know that their reactions are as might be expected
  • It can help to recall happy memories

Adolescents are likely to:

  • Have an adult understanding of death
  • Experience and adult-like expression of grief
  • Understand the consequence of the death - aware of future absence of deceased
  • Feel that possessions of the deceased are important
  • Feel that school and peers are very important
  • Have moments when they idealise the person
  • Turn to peers for support and want to 'fit in'
  • Often take on the role of comforter in the family
  • Get involved in risk taking behaviours  

Gilbert, I. (2010). The little book of bereavement for schools. London: Crown publishing Ltd.

Mackinnon, H. (2013). You just don’t understand: supporting bereaved teenagers. Winston’s Wish.

Rosen, M. (2004). Michael Rosen’s sad book. London: Walker 

 

Help us improve Gloucestershire County Council

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.