My child struggles with changes and endings
- Endings are part of life and are important for both children and adults alike. Learning to navigate them is a skill that children need to develop.
Things you can try
Normalise endings and changes bringing up complex feelings
As parents, we never want our children to experience sadness, anger or disappointment. So sometimes we try to minimise the impact an ending has. We say “don’t worry about that… think about the fun thing coming up next week instead”.
Change that pattern. Let your children feel their feelings. Join them there by talking about it, “it sounds like you’re going to miss your teacher, I understand that".
Once you have acknowledged their experience, you can talk about what comes next, "how are you feeling about meeting your new teacher?". Normalize their emotions, "it’s normal to be a bit nervous about meeting someone new".
Prepare for changes and endings if you know they’re coming
Because we find it difficult to see our children struggle, sometimes we leave talking about change until the last minute. It’s much better to spend a few weeks preparing.
Talk about different ways they might feel, and how that’s ok. Discuss what might come next. For example, talk to your child about the new school they’ll be going to. Or show them pictures and involve them in preparing for the move to a new home.
Create room to cope with an unexpected ending
Your child might find it difficult if an ending happens without any warning. For instance if a friend or close family member moves away suddenly, or a pet dies unexpectedly.
It can be tempting to minimize the ending. You might want to say things like "it doesn’t matter your friend left school, you have so many other friends you won’t notice!". But encouraging children to express their feelings will help them move forward quicker.
Listen and hear your child without judgment. Show them that support. Echo back to them what you learn. For example, "you sound upset you didn’t get to say goodbye".
Talk about ways you cope with change
Share your experiences of managing similar situations. For example, you could say "it was pretty stressful when... but I told myself to give it time and actually everything turned out to be ok!". This will show them that endings are survivable.
Celebrate endings with rituals and make space for memories
Endings are an opportunity to celebrate. Encourage your child to do things that mark an ending. They could write a goodbye card for a friend or buy a present for a teacher. As you support them to do this it gives them another chance to work through their feelings.
Create opportunities for them to share and strengthen their positive memories. This helps them notice what they have gained. For example, ask “what has been your favourite part of being in year 3?".
Check out our blog on this topic, where our Programme Leader for Family Work, Judah Racham reflects on how end points are an important time for reflection, and shares his experiences as a father of three.
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