Supporting Your Child Through Life Changing Events

**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase.

When it comes to childhood, we like to think of it being a time of fun and carefree days and nothing untoward that will ruin that. As magical as we want childhood to be for our children, things don't always pan out the way we want them to. It is a sad reality that at some point children may experience the kind of issues that even adults struggle to process and deal with effectively.

Image Credit: Pexels CC0 License

So how can we as adults make sure that should the worst or something unexpected happens, that we can ease the pressure and give our children the best tools possible to help them process and deal with any issues that they might face?

Choose your location wisely.

Try not to blurt out any distressing news you have while they are in unfamiliar or crowded spaces. This may place unnecessary stress and unwanted attention on your child. Remove them from school, playgroups etc. and make sure when you break the news, you are in a place where they can be confident and comfortable to process the news you need to tell them.

Allow them the space to take in what you are telling them somewhere they are familiar with and feel comfortable. They need this to allow them to express their emotions and allow their reactions to develop naturally and not under force or out of embarrassment.

Give them space

People process things differently. Everyone will have a different reaction to receiving bad news. Sometimes, you can't judge how someone will react to what you have to tell them. Especially children. Brace yourself for a wide range of different reactions and emotions that will come from your child. The main takeaway is not to expect them to react how you think they should, act the same way you did or digest the news as an adult is supposed to.

Let them be quiet or still. Loud, angry, upset or bewildered. There is no hard and fast rule as to how they should react to potentially life-changing news. Nor should they be forced to conform to what society says they need to behave like. Give them mental and physical space to absorb the news, to process it in a way that works for them and then you can be there for them as they need you to be. 

It may be that they want to be left alone if they are older and they refuse any more communication, physical touch or presence or even the acknowledgement of what they have just been told. Younger children may need more patience as they don't or can't fully understand what is going on. Take their lead and let them dictate how they want to react in a way that feels right for them. All you can be is there when they need you and are supportive.


In the event of a divorce, the absence of one parent at home is evidence enough that their life is changing from what they are used to. This can allow them to see what is happening and adjust to their new living situation. However, in the sad event of the loss of a parent, sibling or family member, it may take longer to adjust and find a new way to live with the devastating after-effects grief can bring. Help the child find a way that they can process the loss. This isn't likely to be easy. However, they may find comfort in having a part of the person around. A memento such as a photograph in a locket, keepsake blanket made from a loved one's clothing or even small keepsake urns for cremation ashes should they feel this is something they can use to help them get through this traumatising life event.

Behavioural Changes

It is unrealistic to expect no behavioural changes in a child whose life has just been turned upside down. No matter how young or old they are. The thing with loss is, it affects everyone differently. Sometimes all you can do is to keep an eye on any changes you notice, converse with friends, parents, other family members or teachers to see if their behaviour changes in different settings. Some children know that they are in a safe and loving environment at home and feel more comfortable releasing pent up anger or frustrations at home. Others may feel the need to lash out or withdraw from those around them when away from home. 

Before confronting changes in older children, make sure you are confident you are right and bring up any issues firmly but in a way that they know you are concerned and want to help them.

Younger children could suddenly regress in many ways, depending on their age and the stage of development they are at. All you can do is be there for them and help them get past any regression or lousy behaviour by reinforcing boundaries and retracing the steps that you followed previously. Doing so will help you to build-up to the changes and reverse any problems such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, or hitting out.

Seek professional help

If you feel that you can't confidently work through any issues with your child or children, then it may be worth getting professional help. Talk to your health practitioner or pediatrician about your concerns either with or without your child so you can put together an action plan of support for them. Some children thrive in an environment where they discuss concerns with a stranger. Others won't work so well with outside intervention. Be open and honest with your child about why you want to speak to a qualified therapist or medical professional. This will help to reinforce your bond and let them know you are only doing what you feel is best for them.

The most important thing to remember is there isn't a right or wrong way to deal with childhood loss or trauma. There is no manual for this type of event that is one size fits all. Remember, you know your child and helping them to process what is happening will give them the confidence to come out of this in a better place.


No comments: