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You may be looking at this resource because there has been a death in your service's community, or you may be looking to prepare and build the capacity of your team for a 'big situation' that may occur.

Before you do anything... safety comes first

If you are experiencing the impact of a loss now...

  • Keep everyone safe. Avoid injuries or harm by making your site physically safe and keeping things as calm as possible.
  • Follow the directions of emergency services.
  • Follow regulatory requirements and implement relevant policies, including informing management, and your Regulatory Authority where needed e.g. critical incident or service closure.
  • Be ready to say no if people ask you to do things that are outside your scope or that could be harmful for children and calmly explain why.
  • Seek or ask for help as needed.

To access further tips for responding right now, click here.

When there is a death within your service's community, educators will have a role in supporting children and their families who are experiencing loss and grief. At the same time, educators may also be affected by the loss, and need support themselves, from peers and/or professionals. Understanding how children may respond to death can help educators both support children and their families during times of loss.

This resource aims to support educators to include all children while responding to, and supporting recovery from, events that impact on the lives of children, families, and communities. This is not about educators needing to know everything, or feeling pressured to resolve or fix big situations. This resource is designed to be a starting point to quickly connect educators with the targeted support and resources they need to keep going with their important work with children and families when big situations happen.

An Inclusion Professional can support educators to proactively prepare to have the skills and confidence to respond to big situations that may occur. This preparation could include support to use this resource and may involve strategic inclusion planning. It should be noted that big situations often require support from experts that sit outside the role and expertise of the Inclusion Professional. Inclusion Professionals can help educators connect with external organisations and agencies as needed. If educators feel prepared to respond to big situations, they are more able to remain inclusive of all children and continue to deliver a quality program.

Tips for responding right now

Maintain routines and rhythms

Children benefit from consistency. You can help them feel safe by continuing to do things the way you usually would. Acknowledge events and how children feel, but also provide the usual play opportunities and experiences.

Encourage connections and conversations

Children process experiences through play and interactions with people they trust. Children will connect through play, and conversations about big situations may happen as they play. Adults may need more encouragement and structure, so create opportunities for this where you can, or encourage families and your team members to access community supports and networks where relevant. People especially benefit from support from those they already know and trust.

Link to specialist services when necessary

In a crisis, practical help (e.g. housing, food, finances) is usually what is needed first. Not everyone needs counselling or psychological assistance. Be aware of people who are distressed, especially those whose distress continues over time, as they may need specialist help.

Take care of yourself

Big situations often bring up big feelings, at the time and also afterwards. Helping others can be demanding and tiring. Being part of a supportive team can really help. Sometimes it helps to set priorities and accept that you can’t do what you would usually do. Accessing professional support (such as Employee Assistance Program) can help especially if an incident brings up feelings from your own past, or you feel uncertain, overwhelmed or burdened by your role in the situation.

Next time

After responding to a big situation, it’s helpful to review how you and your team have coped. If you want to be better prepared for big situations that may happen in the future, you might like to access the Community Trauma Tool Kit (Emerging Minds) and/or sign up for National Mental Health Education Initiative (Be You) to help you develop a positive, inclusive and resilient learning community. You can also seek support to plan for the future by contacting your Inclusion Professional or contact us to send us an email.

Things to consider when responding to loss and grief...

  • Using your knowledge of child development and inclusion, think about some ways in which children’s experiences of loss and grief may be different from those of adults. How could this inform your responses to children? What do children need to know?
  • How could you respectfully consider each family's unique needs, choices and beliefs as they respond to loss and grief?
  • What strengths do you think you and your team would bring in an experience of loss and grief?
  • Who could you call on if you needed information or someone to talk to if you experienced a loss and grief situation in your work role?
  • How can policies and procedures support your responses and planning? Do you need to develop or review any policies or procedures?

Resources for preparing or responding

Below is a range of resources that may support you to respond to or be prepared for loss and grief.

Educators icon

Information for educators

Families icon

Information for families

Children's books relating to this big situation

  • The Memory Tree by Britt Teckentru
  • The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild
  • The Important Things by Peter Carnavas
  • Beginnings and Endings and Life Times In Between by Bryan Mellonie
  • Ida Always by Caron Levis
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

Tip: Look for these books on YouTube if you want to view them before purchasing.

If your loss and grief situation is a critical incident, click here for more resources.

Being prepared for responding to loss and grief

Access professional learning modules for educators, or to get the most benefit from Be You, sign up your service to create a learning community and access a Be You consultant from Early Childhood Australia.

Access short courses and resources to help educators support children following a disaster or community trauma.

Stories for reflection

The following stories When a child dies, When a parent dies and When an educator dies relate to experiences of loss and grief to provide insights and opportunities for reflection to inform your planning and preparation.

Stories for Reflection Loss and Grief When an educator dies
172.15 KB [pdf]
Stories for Reflection Loss and Grief When a parent dies
162.18 KB [pdf]
Stories for Reflection Loss and Grief When a child dies
170.92 KB [pdf]


Links within this website provide a starting point for accessing support and resources and are not exhaustive. If you have any feedback on this resource please contact us.