When families are going through difficult times and there is change and upheaval, one of the most comforting and reassuring things for children can be communication and information.
Nurturing your children and providing them with just enough information about what is happening in their world, allows them to make some sense of events.
Take into consideration your child’s developmental level and talk to them at their level. Communication that is relaxed and reassuring will help your child’s mind and emotions to be calmed.
Parents are the adults and need to work cooperatively, wherever possible for the best outcomes for their children. Working together as co-parents can only have a positive effect on your children. Some children internalise their reactions whilst others will develop externalising behaviours. Children who do not know what to expect can become hyper-vigilant or hyper-alert and this uses emotional energy. This can lead to any number of problems including:
- lashing out,
- and withdrawal.
This is especially important for children coping with family separation, who may experience developmental consequences of emotional trauma. These children are at risk for emotional, behavioural and social problems. Children’s emotional and behavioural problems are negatively impacted when there are co-parenting conflicts because these undermine that security of relationship with both parents. A lax parenting style has also been shown to contribute towards a child’s maladjustment2.
Best Behaved Kids provides support for children experiencing difficulty with anxiety, impulsivity, anger and oppositional defiance. We work with parents and schools to assess the function of your child’s behaviour and to develop an individual plan where positive replacement behaviours are learned and added to your child’s “toolbox” of strategies, that they can use when feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Our social-emotional learning supports children dealing with big emotions.
A helpful resource we use at Best Behaved Kids to help develop a sense of predictability and security is to draw up a calendar style plan of your week or fortnight. For primary aged children, we use pictures or visuals to indicate where they will be sleeping; who will pick them up from school or take them to swimming that week; when you will do the groceries together; when the school carnival is on and who will transport them …. Because even though we, as adults know what the week has in store, our children are not often privy to our forward planning and ideas.
Whatever style of planner works for you is great.
This is a simplified version of a weekly plan:
Create the plan together. Get your child involved and have them draw or write mum, dad, swimming, school, ballet etc on each day. You will be amazed to see how much something as simple as a visual calendar can help calm a child and avoid some of the anxiety and anger around unpredictability as they try to navigate the new routines around separation, co-parenting or blended families.
More help on:
 Jones, J.F., Family Diversifiation in Australia-the Increasing Share of Blended and step Families. People and Place, 2007. 15(4): p. 9-20.
 Stallman, H.M. and J.L. Ohan, Parenting Style, Parental Adjustment, and Co-Parental Conflict: Differential Predictors of Child Psychosocial Adjustment Following Divorce. Behaviour Change, 2016. 33(2): p. 112-126.
This blog was guest authored by Yolande Willis of Best Behaved Kids.
Best Behaved Kids works with children, schools and families with positive behaviour support strategies and programs to help children be the best they can be. Because we know that they can.