Supporting Children in Difficult Times

Extra Love When Things Get Really Hard at Home

Apart from the developmentally appropriate challenges that children learn to conquer, there are a few common difficult life events we sometimes see our families dealing with. These might include:

1) a parent suffering depression (post-natal or other forms of depression), an alcohol addiction or mental health issue;

2) a death, terminal illness or miscarriage in the family;

3) parents separating and/or going through divorce; or

4) domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse at home (whether directed at the child or a parent); or,

5) childhood anxiety.

The good news is that Canberra is well equipped to help you and your family (whether you are Australian citizens or from overseas); and Spielwelt’s programs – in particular the GAP and Pfadfinder – are a safe and loving place for your children to be.

While we are not experts in the field of children dealing with grief, abuse, anxiety or depression, from time to time we have children in our programs who are undergoing traumatic events or changes in their home or who suffer from anxiety.

Please let our teachers or leaders know if your child is experiencing these things at home, so that we can better cater to their needs and more carefully observe, love and support.  We would also like to be able to support you, the parent.

Talk to your child’s teacher or our director
Members of our staff have had personal experience with the life events listed above. Talk to us, and we’ll point you towards the staff member with the most personal experience in your situation.  You will not be judged: you will be warmly welcomed!  Your disclosure will remain confidential.

Talking to us could be the first step towards improving your situation. We will do our best to listen, and offer suitable support.  Depression and abuse in particular are things we encourage you to seek outside help with, as it can be really difficult to pull yourself out of without external support.  Sharing is caring, and we really do care about you and your family.

Talk about it with your children
Death, depression, marital break-up and all the forms of emotional or physical abuse take great tolls on families.   Your children will be picking up on things no matter how hard you try to protect them from what is going on.

Often, what a child imagines can be much worse than the truth.  A child might imagine that since Grandfather has passed away, that means that Mummy and Daddy’s deaths are imminent, for example.  A child also might have overheard snippets of your conversations with others, pieced it together with extraneous information, and have come to a much worse conclusion than the reality.

A kind and gentle child-focussed approach to an honest and straight-forward factual explanation will go a long way to helping your child accept the situation with less stress and anxiety.

In the case of abuse however, it is advisable to proceed with great caution when speaking with children about it.  Certainly you will want to listen to their concerns, and validate their feelings.  You may find it necessary to be more careful in discussing the angry/controlling/abusive parent’s problems for example, as this may get back to the angry/controlling/abusive parent and cause further anger/control/abuse.

What you can do at home

Talk to your child:  Children cope best when everything about the event they are dealing with is laid out for them, and they are given true and age-appropriate answers to their questions.

Seek help: There are many not-for-profit and government organisations in Canberra, set up to help you and your children deal with these (and many other) distressing life events.  Feel free to talk to your child’s teacher for our personal recommendations as to where to find this help.  You can also check out our Helpful Links section below, to start finding the organisations that will best help you.

Teach your child coping skills:  In experiencing this with you, your child is having one of the most valuable lessons in life, laid out in front of them, with you by their side to help and guide them.   This of course in no way compensates for the loss of your family member, or the loss of your marriage, nor the abuse you or your children may be enduring, and is incredibly triste.  It can be [at least a small] comfort to know that you are working through the coping skills and strategies your child may need in later life, when they face other difficult life events themselves.

Get connected:  Give yourself permission not to go it alone. Find other people in your situation, and connect with them for mutual support.  There are many support groups, and supportive organisations in Canberra. A few of these are lists in our Helpful Links section, below.

Educate yourself and your child: There are many resources at the ACT Library for children dealing with death, depression, marital break-up, abuse and terminal illnesses in the family.  The Spielwelt library also has an increasing number of special support books for adults and children.  (Feel free to recommend your favourite helpful titles, too, for us to add to our list.)

Avoid the spoiling trap:  Showing extra love and tenderness to your children is incredibly important during difficult times, and is often the easiest thing for parents to do.  The trap to avoid here is confusing “extra love” with “allowing excess behaviours”. It is common for children to act out when they are in distress, but remember that children cope best when boundaries remain firmly in place and their day is loving and predictable.  Maintaining behaviour boundaries can be tricky when you are exhausted or depressed, of course.

With love from our director and teachers
I hope that helps.  The journey ahead of you all is long… but growthful, and full of friends and compassion.  We can support your child through this difficult time, and we hope it eases your journey knowing that our teachers are so caring and loving.

Got more suggestions for our support page here?

Let us know!  We are always happy to update our webpage with more suggestions and help for others.

Childhood Anxiety


Divorce and Separation

Grief, Death, Miscarriage, Illness

Verbal or Physical Abuse

Support Groups and Services in Canberra