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Altered Family Circumstances

At times of family change school has the advantage of being ‘the same’ for children and a break from upset in their home lives. This may mean that there is little outward sign of what has happened, or it could mean that school is the place they feel safe to ‘act out’ their feelings.
Children revisit loss and change in their lives as they grow and develop and understand things differently. Even though a difficult change may have happened a considerable time ago the child may process it much further down the line.
A nurturing school family can make a vast difference to children when things are unsettled and uncertain at home.

  • When parents separate children and young people’s reactions will be individual and dependent on the circumstances and the changes it brings to their lives.
    Some children will manage the change relatively easily. For others it will be a very difficult period in their lives.
    Parents own reaction to the breakdown of a relationship will have a big influence over their child’s response. If parents are able to continue to prioritise co-parenting their children and provide their children with sensitive and responsive parenting then the ‘fallout’ may be less problematic.
    Unfortunately, particularly in the early days children can be exposed to the high levels of acrimony and distress displayed by their parents. It is not uncommon for children to feel ‘in the middle’ of grown up disagreements.
    Children and young people might show sadness, guilt and anger or even relief. Children struggle with the uncertainty about what will happen next – how often they will see their estranged parent, where they will live and whether they will have to change school.
    Some children will have been exposed to unhealthy relationships between their parents – 1in 5 children experience domestic abuse in their parent’s relationships – and professionals being mindful of this can make it possible for children to share difficult experiences
    It may be that children show distress in the immediate aftermath of the separation. or it could be some way down the line that a change in their behaviour shows itself.
    In response some children may become louder and more difficult to manage. Others may seem quiet and withdrawn.
    The opportunity to make sense of confusing feelings with a person not directly involved in the family can help children manage better. It may be necessary to highlight to parents that their child is struggling.

  • There are many reasons that children and young people become involved in looking after a loved one. It could be they provide care from time to time. Others might have caring responsibilities every day. The support they provide could be with physical and/or emotional care. It is important young people are supported in this role
    Families can worry that they will get into trouble because their children are involved in caring duties.
    This can make some families reluctant to ask for support that could minimise the impact of caring on their children.
    When a child is a young carer it is important they are able to access the help that allows them to get the education they need, and the fun they deserve.
    Research shows without support young carers can miss, or cut short an average of 48 school days a year. This affects their education and time with their friends. Young carers can struggle with their emotional wellbeing because of the demands of their caring role. Accessing the support available can make a big difference now and in the future.

  • There are an estimated 200,000 children affected by parental imprisonment each year. These children and their families are more likely than their peers to suffer poor physical and mental health, isolation, stigma and poverty.
    The stigma of a family member being in prison can mean that children do not share with school or friends what is happening. This makes it harder to support families. If school does know that a parent has been imprisoned there are support services available to help children and families.

  • Children of military or service families are exposed to unique experiences, which may include; separation from a parent, frequent moving of house, caring for a sibling or parent, taking responsibility for the household or sudden deployment from a combat zone – all of which may impact on the way children lead their lives both now and in the future.
    Service children who face regular moves from home and school can suffer high levels of anxiety and stress, also their health and their ability to learn may be disrupted especially when their parents are deployed to armed conflicts overseas

  • Parental separation
    Schools may be the first to recognise the impact of parental separation on the child or young person. Give the child or young person space to talk about their worries and feelings.
    Where possible help both parents understand the impact on their child and share emerging concerns.
    Encourage parents to focus and prioritise the needs of their child. They may need to access support for themselves if they are struggling.
    There are a number of websites offering support for professionals and separated families including;
    Family Lives *here*
    Gingerbread *here*
    Separated Families *here*

    Young Carers
    If a pupil in your school is a young carer a collaborative approach between school and home can make all the difference. Making a plan that is sensitive to the family’s needs, as well as making sure they are accessing all the support available for the child to thrive.
    Professionals have a responsibility to identify Young Carers and provide support.
    • Norfolk County Council offer a package of support for young carers you can find out more about what a family can expect in Norfolk *here*
    • The first step to ensure best support is a referral to Norfolk Family Focus Early Help for a Young Carers Needs Assessment. More details *here*
    • ‘Young Carers UK’ provide a ‘step by step’ guide to help schools support young carers in their school. Find out more *here*
    • There are local charities that provide support to Young Carers you can find out about the services they provide *here*

    Children of Imprisoned Parents
    Early identification and intervention can minimise the impact of having a parent in prison.
    There are organisations that can help families and schools to support the children of prisoners.
    Prison Advice and Care Trust – offer advice for schools *here*

    Families Outside offers information for professionals *here*

    National Information Centre for Children of Offenders *here*

    Hands On Approaches to Children’s Emotional Health has information on supporting children of prisoners *here*

    Forces families
    When schools are aware that a child’s family are from a military family they can apply for Service Pupil Premium. This can allow for additional pastoral support for this group of children. Good communication between home and school can make a big difference. When staff are aware loved ones are away from home or there are particular stresses children can be better supported by their school family.
    The websites below offer specialist information and support for families of armed forces
    • SSAF – the armed forces charity *here*
    • Armed Forces Covenant *here*
    • The British Legion *here*

Who can help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact :

Your Local Pharmacist. Find a local one here

Call 111 – they can reassure you and advise if you need more medical help

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents

CLICK HERE to find out more


Find out about the enhanced School Nurse offer ...(content required?)

And the emotional health pathway *here*

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