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first grader and death of a parent



Hello all,

Seeking advice on a sensitive topic - one of my students' mother is dying of breast cancer. Hospice is now involved and, in addition to the things his grandmother is getting him involved with and the counselor at school, how can I help support this little guy?

I've never had a parent of a student pass away. Pets, yes. Even a grandparent but nothing this close to home. Resources for books? Support I can give within the regular classroom?

Thanks for any and all advice - feeling helpless for this little guy.



Full Member
Be there for the child

I have a child in my class who lost her mother in April. Her last teacher and I make sure to be there to talk. Sometimes I just hold her. Like the other day she freaked because a child was throwing up. That was what her mom did the morning she died. (She had a heart problem that was thought to be gall stones) . I had to soothe her and hold her. We had to talk about her fear.

More than anything talk to the child about what is happening and if the parent dies-- be there. Our couselor and principal went to the house to tell the child for the father that her mother had died. He couldn't do it. The couselor was able to help a lot. Now-- we talk about her mother alot. I try to encourage her that Mom would be and is proud of her . She saids she feels mom's love. I think with all us being so open and allowing her to vent-- it has helped.


look for books

I think I'd get my school and public librarians involved right now to find some Grade One level books that might help. The counsellor might even already have a list. I know they are out there. And they could really help you say what is hard to say, even helping the rest of the class deal with such an early death. You might want to think of an appropriate gift from the class. When one of my students lost her little brother we gave her our class mascot to keep (a Teddy Bear) which she really loved.

Carrie in WV

Full Member
Be there

One of our new students had a tragedy just a few months before he came to our school. His father was killed in a motorcycle accident.

The other day he said that they had all made a promise (his mom, sisters and brother) that they would all try not to cry this Christmas. It is enough to tear your heart out.


Junior Member
Talk about his Mom

I lost my husband two years ago, and with four children (the youngest was in 2nd grade at the time) I've come to realize the importance of talking about him as much as possible.

Just 2 days after my husband died, my son had his 8th birthday, and his 2nd grade teacher threw him a huge party in the classroom. While I was at the funeral home finalizing the details, she was helping our little boy blow out candles and open gifts. It was a tremendous gift to our family, knowing that the teacher was allowing him to be a regular kid on his birthday. I owe her so much, she was a stronghold for him during that entire first year of loss.

Back to your question, children want to tell you stories, and they want you to tell them stories about their parent. Find out as much as you can about his mom. Retell those stories, and let him tell you his own versions. (Write them into a journal type book, and present it to him at the end of the school year)

Each time you share about his mom, use the gentlest, sweetest voice you have, and rest assured that brings a child comfort.

Let him bring a picture of his mom to share and keep with the classroom.

My sister-in-law used my husband's old shirts to make pillows for my children, and they LOVE that gift. I was fortunate enough to have an entire quilt made out of his old shirts.... maybe finding a seamstress to make the pillow using one of his moms' shirts, for the little boy would be a wonderful gift idea.

Find out what sort of soap/perfume was mom's favorite, and bring a bottle of it to the classroom, spritz the little boy's desk... it'll also comfort him.

If his mom was a collector (some women are) help him keep that tradition alive. E.g. If she collected sunflowers, incorporate that into an art project.

Holidays are especially difficult, just be sensitive to his loss and loving to his hurting spirit.

Let him cry. He is a little boy, and don't let anyone (adult or child) tell him, "Don't cry." That's not fair that he squelch his feelings because someone else doesn't feel comfortable with sadness.

He may laugh and play a lot sooner than some people think is appropriate, but his grief is in HIS time frame. One of my son's friends told him when they saw him playing soccer, "Don't you feel sad anymore?" It had been less than a month, and of course he was still sad, but he is still a little boy, and his nature had not changed from that of a little boy.

I think that little boy in your classroom is blessed to have you as his teacher. I can tell how senstive you are to him. God bless you for your kindness to him.


Senior Member
Here is a beautiful book that might help

I lost an infant two months before a student lost her mother. She and I grieved together. I gave her a book called Mommy Please Don't Cry. I do not remember the author. It is about an infant that dies and is telling the Mom about how beautiful Heaven is. That's why she shouldn't cry. Anyway, the book was very comforting to her (and to me). She has since moved away, but every now and then comes back to visit me.