A change in behaviour can indicate that something is unsettling or troubling your child.

Young people are more likely to show emotion through actions rather than words, so their demeanour at school and in the home can say a lot about what is happening around them.

If we constantly try and change their behaviour, we risk missing the meaning of what is driving their actions.

In the face of traumatic experiences such as abuse, family violence and neglect, children will act as if they are in a constant state of alarm.

For them, school is a safe place but the uncertainty of a new teacher, timetable and classroom may add to the sense of threat they feel everywhere else in their lives. This will be reflected in their behaviour and the choices they make.

For others, school days can be long and tiring which can lead to grumpiness at the end of the day.

Perhaps your child is not getting enough sleep, or they may be hungry? Are they feeling overwhelmed and confused?

What is their behaviour telling us? Listen to your intuition about your child’s temperament and actions.

Common behavioural changes to look out for:

  • Your child seems distracted
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • They are isolating themselves from others
  • They are hyper-aroused – agitated, unable to relax, and are excessively busy.
  • They are hypo-aroused – very quiet, disengaged and showing no emotion.

As a parent, consider:

  • It can be challenging to respond to behaviour issues at the end of a long day. Take a moment for yourself to find some calm then connect with your child.
  • Ask your child to put into the words the feelings he or she is expressing through behaviour. For example, “Alice, I can see you are upset, can you tell me why?”
  • If they are super tired and cranky at the end of the day, suggest some quiet time, such as listening to music or reading a book. This may help to calm them down and get their mind off worries that may be upsetting them.
  • Talk with your child about their school timetable and other activities they are doing. If they are finding it all too much to cope with, consider letting some activities go for the time being.
  • If you need extra support, Centacare provides counselling to parents, families and children, and primary and secondary school students. Other support is provided through the National School Chaplaincy Program. For more information, please phone 8215 6700.