Are you worried because your child:

  • Seems irritable or has angry outbursts?
  • Gets upset or has headaches/ stomachaches/ heart pounding at reminders of injury/ illness?
  • Startles easily (for example, jumps if there is a sudden noise)?

Some behavior changes come from feeling worried or stressed. Changes in child behavior can include crying, angry outbursts or temper tantrums, whining, clinging, and acting out in frustration. These feelings and behaviors are common.

How can you help your child through behavior changes?

  • Be patient with your child

At the hospital, children’s early reactions, including crying, whining, clinging, or acting out, are common and expected in small amounts. If they happen too often, it’s okay to set rules and limits like you would at home. Work with the medical team to plan a daily routine so that things are more predictable and familiar. With teens, remind them it’s okay to be confused, angry, or scared and to talk about their feelings. Recognize that your teen may want to appear “grown up”, while also feeling afraid and in need of your comfort and support.

  • Help your child put feelings into words.

Sometimes kids show their feelings through their behaviors. Help your child put feelings into words. Listen carefully and help you child express frustrations and worries. When you help your child find words for strong feelings, you give him/her tools for coping. Describing and understanding his/her reactions is a first step in dealing with them.

  • Help your child understand how feelings can affect their behavior

Help your child understand how feeling jumpy, tired, stressed or in pain, can lead to angry or irritable behavior. Set normal limits and consequences for behavior, but also let your child know that you understand that it may harder right now to control their feelings. Help them notice when they are starting to get angry or irritated, and suggest that they take some time out to calm down or do something they enjoy.

  • Set normal limits.

You may be tempted to relax the rules in order to help your child feel special, or to make up for the hard times he or she has been experiencing. However it is often better for your child if you set normal limits on behavior and keep most of your family rules and expectations the same. Listen to one mom share the perils of holding your children to different standards: 

  • Remind them of their coping skills.

You can help your child cope with stress by helping them remember how they coped well with stressful events in the past.

Helpful Resources:

Does my child need talk to someone? / Do I need to talk to someone?