This term is used when a child’s ongoing behavioural difficulties appear to have their root cause in emotional or possibly social problems

It is important to remember that some children have such deep-rooted emotional difficulties that these may manifest themselves in unusual quietness, rather than disruptive behaviour.

Some emotional and behavioural problems may be temporary and can be dealt with using standard pastoral strategies. But others are so complex that outside professionals need to be involved to help the child cope with daily living and learning.

A variety of praise and reward strategies are often useful and it is important to raise self-esteem at every opportunity. It may also be helpful to consider making a home visit or to arrange to see the parents in school and involve them in agreeing a home-school programme of action.

It is advisable to consider the wellbeing of all the other children in the class, as well as any adults who work with a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Key characteristics

Children with emotional and behavioural difficulties may:

  • find it difficult to form friendships
  • often appear preoccupied and therefore find it difficult to get involved in activities
  • have difficulty keeping on task
  • have difficulty taking part in group activities and discussion
  • often become tearful or throw tantrums for no apparent reason
  • have psychosomatic illnesses
  • have low self-esteem and often become victims of bullies
  • become bullies themselves
  • be aggressive and disruptive
  • find it difficult to conform to classroom rules and routines
  • be excessively attention-seeking through either negative behaviour or clinginess
  • sometimes have school phobia
  • underachieve in many areas of the school curriculum.

Support strategies

You may need to:

  • ensure a consistent approach to the child’s behavioural difficulties by all members of staff by developing positive behaviour-management strategies
  • encourage the provision of a positive classroom environment
  • have group and class discussions (circletime) to focus on problems and give all childen opportunities to air their views in a controlled environment
  • set up small social skills groups for children who have difficulties in particular areas such as relating to other children or anger management
  • develop social interaction through games and paired problem-solving activities
  • give short, clearly-defined tasks
  • encourage the development of ICT skills to increase motivation
  • provide activities that encourage the building of self-esteem
  • give the child opportunities to express their feelings through the use of puppets or role-play in pairs or small groups
  • develop positive links between older and younger children
  • arrange for educational psychologist or behavioural support input such as circle of friends, if appropriate
  • arrange for counselling or family support provision usually through either the Educational Welfare Service, the Family Centre or the Child and Adult Mental Health service.

Support agencies

  • Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association
  • Young Minds