Helpful resources

These resources focus on supporting children/young people, parents/carers and families, with the following difficulties: Bullying, feeling different, adjusting to change, communicating about emotions, worries about school, difficulties with sleep, managing challenging behaviours, preparing for a hospital appointment, coping when your child is unwell/in hospital and talking to other people about medical conditions.

Sadly, bullying happens to lots of children, young people and also adults. It is a serious issue and can be upsetting for everyone involved. It is normal for parents/carers to be worried, concerned and upset about bullying. The most important thing to remember is that the problem can be solved and you and your child/ young person don’t have to deal with it alone.

Bullies tend to pick on things that they know children/ young people will get upset about. For example, how someone looks, talks, whether they are popular or unpopular, time off for health appointments, differences from peers. Below are some websites that can offer support and advice around bullying.

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Sometimes when a child or young person has a health condition they might need to do different things to keep themselves well, for example taking medication. They may also look visibly different. This can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness, annoyance that they have to do things that others do not and frustration at missing out on activities.

How can parents/carers help?

  • Help your child to be in contact with others who have got a chronic illness. Your paediatrician or other health professional involved in your child’s care may be able to help with this.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Check in with your child. Try to listen to everything he or she has to say. You can try say phrases that begin with ’ that sounds…’, or ’I can imagine….’. If you are unsure with how to respond just thanking them for telling you what was going on in their head can help your child feel valued. This kind of communication doesn’t always have to be verbal. Drawing, writing, or playing music can help kids express their emotions.
  • Help children/young people to find their strengths. Is your child/young person a reader, a great comedian, singer, a future astronomer, an art lover? Their health condition does not define their life — it’s only a small bit of all the things that makes your child/young person who they are as a person.
  • Give your child a choice in their medical care. Sometimes children can feel angry or annoyed about their medical condition. This can in part be because they do not feel they have control. Offering a child choice in the flexible aspects of treatment can help the child feel involved and in control. For example, “Which to you want to take first, the blue tablet or the pink?” or “Do you want to sit on my lap while you have your blood test or in the chair with me holding your hand?”

There are many changes a child or young person can go through as they are growing up. Times of change can be exciting, but they can also bring feelings of worry, confusion, frustration and anger. Examples of difficult changes include being diagnosed with a health condition, becoming sick or unwell, a family member/friend/pet becoming unwell or dying, parents separating, moving schools, moving house or getting bad news.

When a child or young person does not feel ready for change, does not want things to change or is feeling out of control they may feel like they are not able to cope. When change happens to a child or young person, they may experience changes in their sleeping or eating habits, struggle to regulate their mood (be more grumpy/short tempered/tearful), struggle to concentrate and seem quiet or withdrawn.

It is important for children and young people to know that it is okay to experience all these feelings. Sometimes talking to someone they trust might help. If talking is too hard drawing or writing might be easier for them to communicate how they are feeling. Below are some websites that may be able to support children, young people and their families with change.

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When a child/young person has a health condition or has needed to stay in hospital you may find that they have difficulties with sleep. This may be finding it hard to get to sleep or to stay asleep. As sleep is important for growth, concentration, mood regulation and memory it is understandable that children/young people with poor sleep may have difficulties regulating their mood and behaviour. This can have a big impact on the whole family. When a child or young person has a health condition or has stayed in hospital their sleep patterns may be disrupted. Often their sleep patterns will return to normal, however if the child/young person is experiencing pain, discomfort or their medication regime affects their sleep routine their sleep may be negatively impacted. Your Health Visitor, General Practitioner or medical team should be able to offer help and support with this.

Using a sleep diary for at least a week may be helpful. This should include when the child/young person went to sleep, how long it took them to get to sleep, how many times they woke up (and for how long), what activities did they did before bed and keeping a record of anything that may have had an emotional impact on them. When you record this information try to notice patterns of what was helpful or unhelpful for your child/young person. It may also be helpful to show a General Practitioner, Health Visitor or medical team.

Having a good bedtime routine and teaching your child/young person relaxation techniques can help promote good sleep habits. Some examples of relaxation techniques are progressive relaxation, guided imagery and mindfulness exercises.

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A health problem or diagnosis in a child or young person can create changes in family life, routines and relationships. Managing the new demands of a condition and treatment can be a challenge for any family. Children and young people respond in different ways to health conditions depending on the stage of their development, their personality, on the illness itself and the support they are given. It is common for children to experience some kind of emotional or behavioural change in these circumstances. Although how they express the impact of their health condition on their wellbeing differs for each child/young person.

Often families feel unsure about how to manage their child or young person’s behaviour. It can feel difficult to maintain your usual rules and boundaries. Having a child or young person with a health problem can disrupt your family routine and involves change for all the family.

Saying “no” to your child/young person can feel especially difficult when they are unwell. However, boundaries and routine can actually help make your child feel safe, secure and know what is expected of them. In the long term sticking to a routine and boundaries will also make life easier for you.

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Children or young people with chronic illnesses can find it difficult to know what to say about their illness or how to explain it to their friends or family. Parents can help their children by:

  • Suggesting various simple explanations of the illness—your paediatrician or another health professional may be able to help with this. To start this conversation you could say something like:
    ‘Can you tell me what you already know about (name of condition)?” You could then say something like “Can I tell you what I know about (name of condition)?”
  • You can roleplay with your child by pretending to be a friend asking questions and support your child to answer them.
  • Sometimes it can help to come up with a nickname for it, particularly if the health condition is a long word.
  • If you do not know the answer to your child’s questions, take the opportunity to find the answer together. This will help your child gain the confidence to ask questions and begin to take control of their situation.
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