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Helping parents understand children's behaviour

When children seem to be pulling away, it can be hard to know what to say or do as parents or carers. Our project workers encourage parents to listen more, try to understand the reason for certain behaviours and, most importantly, reach out to others for help.


how to connect with children

father doing braids of daughter


Connecting doesn’t have to be something profound. It can be simple. If a young person is having issues, make time to listen. 

I'm a parent myself and it is easy to get caught up in the behavior of your children and what they're doing rather than listen to what’s going on underneath.

Ask yourself what's making them feel the way they do? Why are they behaving that way? It could be something to do with how you behave. In fact, it very often it is.

Reach out

Another thing is to connect with other parents if you can. There is no shame in reaching out for support. 

There are parenting groups, formal and informal, which parents can join, particularly if a child has additional needs. We have a group which gets families active. Many parents say how much it's helped them connect:

It’s been lovely to be out with my boys exercising and having fun together

project worker shaking hands with young person as father smiles

Breaking the stigma of reaching out

When children are going through difficult times, parents often feel like it's their fault. It can be isolating. But there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.

Let go of the past

One thing I found with some parents is they tend to hold on to things that have gone wrong. If there have been negative outcomes with a young person previously then parents can be reluctant to look at things again.  

You need to put the past behind you and think “right, what are we working with today?” 

taking things slowly

young woman long curly hair with canvas bag looking over shoulder smiling

Take it slow

Parents also get anxious about the future. What does their child’s future look like? To a degree, sometimes it’s best to try focus on the here and the now.

We have no immediate control over the future, but we can influence it by what we’re doing today. 

Taking a day-by-day approach is important. Sometimes there’s an expectation that a young person will just get fixed when they join a service. But it’s a process.  

changing perspective

Change perspective

Looking at young people through the lens of what we experienced and what we grew up with and what we live with now is not the way forward. We must be more empathetic and put ourselves in the place of that young person. 

We must understand young people's cultural attitudes to things like substance misuse

I was trying to be someone else I was trying to be someone else

– Daniel

change our perspective

Smoking and drinking is a cultural thing. If we ask them to give it up, we’re asking them to give up a culture. We’re asking them to remove themselves from a place of belonging. We need to educate ourselves on what it means to be part of this culture. 

Rather than dismiss a behaviour, we need to understand why it’s important. It’s a sense of belonging, of culture, of identity. Parents need to educate themselves and try to step out of the situation, see it objectively.

daniel and sam

This blog was written by the project worker who is helping Daniel and Sam. When Sam saw his son’s mental health spiralling, he contacted our family support services.

Since his dad reached out, Daniel has found focus and moved away from substance use. Both him and his dad are hopeful for the future.