Many children go through times when they need a bit of extra support. Growing up isn’t easy – and children can have a tough time at school or at home, sometimes because of changes in the family.
It can be hard to know what to do if your child is struggling. This may be because your relationship with their parent has ended, or for some other reason. Here’s our advice for where to go for more support in some of the most common scenarios.
Of course, it’s easier to take care of others when you’re looking after yourself. See our page on your wellbeing for tips on taking care of yourself.
Talking about your relationship ending
Becoming a single parent can be incredibly hard – and knowing how to talk to your children about it can feel impossible. It’s completely normal for them to struggle with this.
We have other pages on helping children through a separation and dealing with a death to help you start the conversation. These pages suggest organisations that should be able to support you and your children. If your child is old enough, they might want to look at our pages just for them: adjusting to your parents splitting up and coping when your mum or dad has died.
I’m moving on from domestic abuse
It can be especially hard for parents to talk to children about why they’ve left a relationship that’s involved abuse. Your child might have seen or been involved in the abuse themselves, and need help to move on from this.
Or your child may not have seen what you’ve experienced. You may be worried about what to tell them and how this will affect their relationship with their other parent.
Here are some specialist organisations that help children and parents when there’s been domestic abuse.
- Childline – confidential support, counselling and information for children and young people by phone, webchat and email.
- NSPCC – helping children and their parents move on from abuse. They have local services for children.
- Young Minds – has a guide on what to do if your child has seen or experienced domestic abuse – and you can call 0808 802 5544 if you’re worried about your child.
I’m dealing wtih challenging behaviour
If your child is regularly doing things that are hard for you and them to deal with, help is out there.
You might be feeling helpless, confused, isolated or ashamed – many parents do. Your child’s behaviour is an indirect way of communicating how they’re feeling – they may not have the words to tell you. By staying calm and trying to talk to them, you might be able to find out how they’re feeling and what’s really going on.
If your child seems troubled but won’t talk to you about it, they might be able to talk to someone else. Perhaps a relative, family friend or teacher. Or they might feel safe speaking to someone with experience in helping young people. Your child’s teacher or school nurse might be able to connect your child to a professional support worker or counsellor. Your GP can also tell you about local services and make a referral.
Here are some organisations that might be able to help.
- Family Action – can support you over the FamilyLine by phone, text or email. They have guidance on managing challenging behaviour in children. They also have a mentor service called Friendship Works, where they connect your child to someone they can trust for non-judgemental support and encouragement. You can get in touch on behalf of your child, or they can sign up to the service themselves.
- Family Lives – information and support for parents on a range of parenting issues, including advice on challenging behaviour.
- Young Minds – a guide on what to do if you’re experiencing challenging behaviour from your child, as well as a helpline for parents concerned about their child’s behaviour or mental health.
- Our own online forum is full of single parents talking about how to overcome challenges – or you could join a Gingerbread friendship group to get support from others who understand what you’re going through.
I’m worried about my child’s mental health
Changes in your child’s personality or mental wellbeing can be extremely worrying. You’ve most likely tried speaking to your child. Beyond this, it can be hard to know how best to react or help. Your child’s GP or school nurse or counsellor might be able to tell you about the support available where you live.
You might also find these organisations helpful.
- Young Minds has a helpline for parents concerned about their child’s mental health and lots of useful information for both parents and young people.
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists has guides on lots of aspects of young people’s mental health. They have different information for parents and children on things like eating disorders, depression and stress.
- Youth Access offers free local support across the UK for young people from the age of 11.
Your child might be struggling with their sexuality, or eating, or substance abuse. Here are some organisations that can help with specific issues.
- Beat helps young people with eating disorders and their families through their information, confidential helpline and email service. You can also find local support services.
- FRANK gives advice and support on drug and alcohol use, including for parents concerned about a child.
- Stonewall Young Futures is an information and support hub for LGBTQ+ young people thinking about their next steps.
- The Mix has essential support for young people under 25 on lots of topics: sex and relationships, drink and drugs, work, studying, and health and wellbeing.
My child is being bullied
Bullying isn’t always easy to spot. It can be:
- Physical – pushing or punching or fighting
- Verbal – calling names or spreading rumours
- Emotional – being left out or humiliated by others
- Online – through social channels
If you think your child is being bullied, here are some places to go for help.
- Childline has lots of support for children experiencing bullying. This includes information about different types of bullying and a bounce back from bullying tool to learn how to cope.
- Kidscape runs free assertiveness workshops for children affected by bullying, as well as workshops for parents on dealing with bullying and how to communicate with your child’s school. They also have an advice line for parents.
- The NSPCC has advice for parents to keep children safe from bullying, including how to spot the signs of bullying and where to get support. If you’re worried about your child you can call their helpline or email them.
My child is a young carer
If your child looks after you or someone else in the family, there’s special support for them.
Contact your local council to ask for a young carer’s assessment. This will help decide what support your family might need and what the council can give you. They should make sure your child isn’t taking on too much, and that their education and wellbeing are in good shape. The NHS has more on young carer’s rights.
- Carers Trust is a network of organisations in England, Scotland and Wales offering information, advice, practical support and/or care in the home. Many but not all have services for young carers. Find your nearest one
- The Booklet for Young Carers was written for young carers by young carers – it has all sorts of useful information and advice.
- The Children’s Society has advice and resources to help young carers be healthy, happy and focused on the future.
- Sidekick is a confidential helpline for young carers in the UK. You can text or email them anytime about anything that’s bothering you as a young carer.
- Macmillan has lots of information and support if your child is looking after someone with cancer.
Does your child need a break?
You may feel your child could do with a break, especially if they’ve been having a hard time.
Our page on going on holiday can help you plan a holiday for your family or just for your child. It points you to places that arrange holidays and days out for young people who may not otherwise get a break, including free or subsidised places to help with the cost.