Helping children cope with change

Cast your mind back 12 months. Often children would say ‘I don’t feel well’ or ‘I have a maths test today and I don’t want to go to school’.

A typical response from a parent or guardian might be ‘Come on, once you get to school and see your friends you will be fine and you will be fantastic in your Maths test’.

Fast forward to today and that same conversation might be something like this ‘Dad, when can I go to school, I really miss my friends?’.

A typical response from a parent or guardian this time might be, ‘I know sweetheart but the school is closed for now and your teachers have sent you lots of fun tasks and things to do at home’.

There are two main concepts for helping children and young people cope with change:

Listening and Communication

1. Make quality time to listen to your children and find out about how they feel.

2. Talk with children about what has happened in the day. Show genuine interest in what they have to say and what they want to talk about.

3. Give them space. Sometimes children are not ready to talk and they might need time to process change. This is particularly true of a marriage break up or a bereavement in the family. Given time children will come to us.

4. Think about the age appropriateness of your answer. Always be honest as children can tell if you are not being honest, but make sure the language that we use is appropriate.

5. Sometimes it is easier to have conversations whilst doing something fun. In this way you create a relaxed environment which is easier to talk. However, if the time is not right, don’t force it. More importantly, if children are having fun don’t stop it.

6. Emotions can be difficult for people to talk about but if children see this; they will find it harder to open up to you. Alternatively, if you find it easier to speak and listen as a family, your children will find it easier too.


‘Resilience’ is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

Each one of these elements of resilience is equally as important as the next and should be viewed as a whole concept.

The ability to recover from a situation depends on:

  • Social support – The amount of support that children receive from family, friends and others around them can affect recovery time.
  • Optimism – How optimistic we are about the future, (how ever difficult or traumatic is at the time), can help us determine how long it will take to recover. Although it is vital not to rush recovery everyone has different times to heal and that is OK! The ability to help children understand this, is important too.
  • Problem solving ability – Our problem-solving ability is vital for resilience. The way we view situations and can find solutions or ways to minimise the impact of a problem is useful for everyone. Being able to demonstrate our problem-solving ability to children and cultivate that skill within them is extremely useful. This will enable children to develop their own problem -solving ability in school and throughout their own lives.
  • Emotional awareness – The ability to recognise our feelings; gives us an emotional awareness the helps us build resilience. If children have a strong emotional awareness; they know how to communicate their emotions effectively.
  • Self-belief – Self-belief is powerful. It means that when we believe in our own ability we can achieve much more in life. When children have self-belief; they  have a level of confidence, a focus and determination that enables them to realise that they have the ability to adapt and use their own self-belief to see an end to a situation.
  • Control of self – The opening line of the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling states that ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…’ shows our control of self; and in turn a high level of resilience and an ability to cope with change. Enabling children to develop control of self encourages them to cope with change.

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