The go-to expert on childhood crisis gives teachers practical advice

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About the authors

Dr. David Schonfeld

David Schonfeld, M.D., is Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) and Director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. He has provided consultation, technical assistance, and training in the areas of pediatric bereavement and school crisis preparedness and response for more than 20 years.

Dr. Schonfeld has consulted with schools during the aftermath of numerous school crises (including shootings and other school violence) and national crises. From 2001 to 2004, he consulted to the New York City Department of Education and coordinated training for school crisis teams in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and provided training to more than 1,000 district- and school-level crisis teams within the system.

In 2005, Dr. Schonfeld was awarded funding to establish the NCSCB. He has worked with schools coping with large-scale natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005; Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas, in 2008; and the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China.

He is actively engaged in school-based research involving children's understanding of and adjustment to serious illness and death and school-based interventions to promote adjustment and risk prevention.

Marcia Quackenbush

Marcia Quackenbush, M.S., M.F.T., C.H.E.S., is a senior editor with ETR Associates in Scotts Valley, California. She is a licensed family therapist and certified health education specialist.

Ms. Quackenbush has more than 15 years of clinical mental health experience, much of it focused on children, adolescents, and families of people living with a life-changing condition; or people coping with terminal illness in themselves or family members.

Ms. Quackenbush has written extensively in the health education field, publishing numerous articles and books on a range of topics.


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How children understand death

Common reactions that children may have

The importance of making contact

Communication: The heart of the work

When an entire school is affected

Support for grieving children


Reader's guide included—perfect for teacher study groups!

Death and grief will affect the lives of almost all children at some point, often leading to struggles with academic performance, social relationships, and behavior. Teachers can be a critical lifeline for a grieving child—and now they have a practical guidebook to help them provide sensitive support to students of all ages.

Author David Schonfeld is the national go-to expert on childhood bereavement and school crisis—a veteran consultant to school crisis teams, he has trained thousands of professionals in the wake of events such as 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. Partnering with family therapist Marcia Quackenbush, he guides teachers through a child's experience of grief and loss, illuminates the classroom issues that grieving may trigger, and empowers teachers to undertake the rewarding job of reaching and helping their students. Educators will get the real-world tips, strategies, and insights they need to

  • explain the major concepts of death in age-appropriate ways

  • respond constructively to children's common feelings and behaviors after a death

  • initiate and maintain positive, helpful communication

  • learn what to say and what not to say when a child or family is grieving

  • use simple commemorative activities at school to help students cope with their feelings

  • address children's responses to different causes of death, including suicide, illness, and violence

  • help a child who is "stuck" in a difficult phase of grief

  • provide ongoing assistance when triggers of grief renew a child's sense of loss

  • notify and support students after a death that affects the whole school community

Throughout the book, powerful vignettes and examples give teachers a vivid inside look at what their students may be feeling and how an educator's words and actions can make a difference. And because teachers may struggle with their own emotions as they help their students, the book shows them how to manage a wide range of feelings, from discomfort with discussing death to personal identification with the child's loss.

With this how-to guide to one of the most delicate issues an educator will encounter, teachers will give students the support they need to cope with grief and work their way back to full participation in academic and social life.

Table of Contents

About the Authors
MaryEllen Salamone
Introduction: Yes, This Matters

1: Why Schools and Teachers? Isn't This Someone Else's Job?

2: How Children Understand Death

3: When a Death Occurs in a Child's Life

4: Support for Grieving Children: What to Do

5: Communication: Ways to Make Contact and Keep It Going

6: Working with Families

7: Special Concerns for Bereaved Children

8: Providing Support over Time

9: When an Entire School Is Affected

10: Seriously Ill Students: When Death Is a Concern

11: Memorialization and Commemoration

12: Taking Care of Yourself

Afterword: Support for the Present and the Future
Study Guide

"If there were just one book I would recommend to the teachers of my children, this absolutely would be it." —Therese A. Rando, Ph.D., BCETS, BCBT; Clinical Director, The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss

"Provides a window into the personal experiences of the bereaved child and offers practical and easy-to-follow strategies that teachers and schools can immediately utilize."—Thomas Demaria, Ph.D., Director, Psychological Services Center and 9/11 Family Center Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, Long Island University

"If a resource like this were available after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I would have sent a copy to each of New York City's 1,000 schools and structured staff development efforts around its main themes."—Vincent Giordano, M.S., former Executive Director of the Divisions of Student Support Services, New York City Department of Education

About the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement

The NCSCB was founded in 2005 with generous support from the September 11th Children's Fund and the National Philanthropic Trust. It has provided support services to schools across the country. The goals of the NCSCB are to promote an appreciation of the role schools can serve to support students, staff, and families at times of crisis and loss; to link efforts to provide trauma-related and bereavement support services within school settings; to collaborate with professional organizations, governmental and nongovernmental agencies, and community groups to further these goals; and to serve as a resource for information, training materials, consultation, and technical assistance.