Behaviour changes in children

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Parents can learn helpful tips on how to manage behaviour changes in children who are ill.

Key points

  • It can be normal for a child who is ill to have behaviour changes.

Behaviour changes in children who are ill are normal. Talk to your child's nurse, social worker, or child life specialist if you are concerned about your sick child's behaviour changes. They may be able to suggest strategies to help you.

There are several approaches you can take at home to reduce problem behaviours:

  • Stick to a routine when you can. Although life has become unpredictable, keeping to routines as much as possible will help. Children thrive on routine. As your child's lifestyle changes, be open to establishing new routines.
  • Develop a discipline strategy to deal with inappropriate behaviour. For example, find alternate ways for your child to express their negative feelings or behaviours; try saying "When you get angry, I would like you to...". In some situations, ignoring the behaviour may be the best strategy. Too much attention can cause negative behaviours to increase.
  • Recognize good behaviour when you see it. Recognition could involve special time set aside with parents.
  • React to inappropriate behaviour with consequences that are suitable for your child's age or stage of development. The response should be prompt, consistent and clear.
  • For younger children, playing is a great way to let your child express their thoughts and feelings. For example, your child may find needles less frightening if they can first play with empty syringes.
  • Involve your child in discussions about their treatment. This is especially important for teenagers since they want to be part of any decisions. Discussions will help your teen deal with the loss of control and independence that may come with their treatment.
Last updated: June 13th 2012