How can I help my child cope with change? 

Change affects everyone differently. As adults, we learn how to manage our feelings over time. But children don’t always find it easy to understand or express their emotions.

Sometimes this will impact on how they behave. They may need some guidance to process what’s happening. As a parent or carer, you can help them learn to cope with these new situations.  

    Be aware of types of change

    Types of change that may affect your child or impact their behaviour include:  

    • A new sibling 
    • Change in school or school arrangement.
    • Death of someone close to them.   
    • Changes in routine. 
    • Lack of sleep.  
    • Conflict at home.  
    • Separation or divorce.  
    • Parent working away.  
    • Moving house. 

    Read books about change

    Read ageappropriate books on changes. Some useful books include:

    Acknowledge their feelings

    Young children may not know what they’re feeling, but you can help them identify the emotion by labelling it.

    Saying things like, “You seem sad/ nervous/ scared/ angry/ excited” can help. Tell them that it’s OK to feel like that. Explain that you understand and that you love them.  

    If your child has lost someone close to them, you can also read advice on how to help your child when someone dies.

    Talk about what’s changing  

    When children go through a major life change, you can help them by connecting the two phases of their lives.  

    Try making a book with photos and drawings. For example, if youre moving house, stick in pictures of their old bedroom and their new bedroom. Look through the book and talk about the positives of the new house and how exciting it is to be moving. You can also talk about the sadness of leaving the old house.  

    Look for the positives  

    Children may imagine the worst when facing the fear of the unknown. They might say things like, “You’ll love the new baby more than me” or No one will be friends with me”. 

    Gently challenge your child if you hear them say things like this. Help them visualise a realistic picture of the new situation. For children who can’t or struggle to express how they feel, try to imagine the concerns and worries they might have. Then talk to them about the change in a positive and exciting way.  

    Teach them how to bounce back  

    Learning the tools to cope with and bounce back from stressful situations is an important life skillThis is also known as resilience. Its something we can build on throughout our lives. You can help this process by show your child positive ways to deal with stress through your own actions, and make them feel loved. Or read our tips on resilience for more ideas.  

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    This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

    More on talking about feelings

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