The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated both the need and lack of support for grieving children in schools across the United States, a survey onducted in July and August 2020 by the American Federation of Teachers and New York Life Foundation finds. According to New York Life Foundation and American Federation of Teachers Grief in School Survey: Key findings and topline results (17 pages, PDF), 26 percent of educators reported that a member of their school community (including immediate family members of students, teachers, or staff) had died from the coronavirus, but only 15 percent of surveyed educators said they were very comfortable addressing students' emotional needs — including COVID-related anxiety, grief, and/or trauma. In addition, a vast majority (93 percent) of respondents believed that the traumatic effects of the coronavirus on students will be felt long term; 84 percent said they had become more aware of the impact of "non-death-related losses" on students such as a their families being impacted by the pandemic or having anxieties about the future; and nearly four in five said they felt unprepared to help their students deal with non-death-related losses in their families such as long-term physical health challenges (79 percent), mental health challenges (78 percent), and financial insecurity (78 percent). For their part, 92 percent of educators suggested there should be a greater focus on training teachers in bereavement counseling; 91 percent said they would be interested in participating in such training if offered through their school or district; and 89 percent said having resources dedicated to supporting students' social and emotional needs in a remote learning environment would be helpful.
(Photo credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)