Grief and Behavioral Difficulties in Middle School Students

The purpose of this project is to discuss specific behavioral problems among middle school students who have had someone close to them die or be diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening illness. Many middle school students have behavioral issues for a variety of reasons, but this project will focus on which problems are specifically tied to grief and bereavement and positive redirection strategies can be employed without discounting the child’s grieving process.

I have been working regularly with middle school students dealing with grief for about a year. I volunteer three hours a week with two different groups: one focused on traditional grief for kids who have had someone close to them die, and one focused on kids who have had a person close to them diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness. I have also gone on the BASIS trip to Camp Westwind in Oregon and worked with middle school students, the vast majority of whom are not dealing with the death or illness of someone close to them. In both of these settings, I have received specific training geared towards positively redirecting students who are disrupting others, though these were very different skills at the different locations.

Middle school is often a time of massive tradition for students, and the loss or diagnosis of a loved one can make this even more difficult. This can create strain on students, their families, and their schools. Traditional discipline can often exacerbate these problems by isolating the student without addressing the underlying problems. A project specifically geared toward these challenges is valuable to BASIS as a school and community.

To answer my questions, I will be reviewing the literature surrounding grief in middle school students as well as working with these kids. I will also be talking with counsellors and volunteers at Tu Nidito and program staff at Camp Westwind about their experiences with specific behavioral problems and solutions. For my final project, I will produce a research paper addressing the behavioral challenges that grieving middle schoolers experience, with specific recommendations for supporting these kids through those challenges. 

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