Professional Resources

Supporting Families Through Change & Loss

At times of family change a setting has the advantage of being a stable place for children, and a break from any potential upset in their home lives. This may mean that there is little outward sign of what has happened, or it could mean that their setting 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 setting family can make a vast difference to children when things are unsettled and uncertain at home.

Dive Deeper

Parental Separation

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?
  • Will they have to change school?

Some children will have been exposed to unhealthy relationships between their parents. 1 in 5 children experience domestic abuse in their parent’s relationships. 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 Others may seem quiet and withdrawn.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.

Support From A Setting

Settings 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;

Young Carers

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 setting 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.

Support From A Setting

If a pupil in your setting is a young carer a collaborative approach between setting 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.

Children Of Imprisoned Parents

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 their setting or friends what is happening. This makes it harder to support families. If a setting does know that a parent has been imprisoned there are support services available to help children and families.

Support From A Setting

Early identification and intervention can minimise the impact of having a parent in prison. There are organisations that can help families and settings to support the children of prisoners.

Forces 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 of a loved one to a combat.

Service children who face regular moves from home and their settings 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.

Support From A Setting

When settings 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 professionals are aware loved ones are away from home or there are particular stresses children can be better supported by their setting.

The websites below offer specialist information and support for families of armed forces;



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