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Tornado: educators and professionals

Trigger Warning: We are exploring the lived experience of children making the transition from military to civilian life, which some may find triggering.

You can help forces children who feel powerless in the face of change, lost in their new surroundings or anxious about what lies ahead.

Learn more about how you can adapt your practice to better meet the unique support needs of pupils who might need a little help to adjust to getting used to a new school.

Our Learning Offer

Young people from armed forces and veteran families have told us that they feel educators and professionals don’t always understand the lives they lead and how this can impact on education and learning, mental health and wellbeing and so much more.

At Forces Children Scotland we believe that in understanding the lives of these children and young people better, professionals will be equipped to offer the right support at the right time and will be conscious of experiences or dynamics which may impact on the child.

We have developed a range of learning tools for educators and professionals.

Whether supporting a child while their parent is deployed, a youth worker creating tailored spaces for children on military bases, or a policy professional seeking to enhance your knowledge about this community of children; we have a full learning offer to suit your needs.

Our Learning Offer

Professional Learning Activity

Explore our Professional Learning Activity at your own pace and in your own time to enhance understanding and practice to support pupils from the armed forces community.

Find out more

Co-produced Learning Resources

We have co-produced resources with children and young people from armed forces and veteran families which can be used as a tool to enhance your own practice.

Find out more

Face-to-Face Training

We can provide face-to-face training sessions on a range of themes relevant to the lives of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families.

Find out more

Online Learning Sessions

We host online learning sessions which offer contextual information, evidence from children and young people, research data and much more to discuss and enhance practice.

Find out more

Why do children and young people feel powerless in the face of change?

  • They are unable to control a situation.
  • They become stuck and have tunnel vision as they focus on the problem and are unable to focus on the solution.

It is useful to recognise the mental health symptoms and behaviours of a child or young person who may feel powerless, for example:

  • Withdrawn
  • Not talkative
  • Appearing to be rude
  • Negative outlook
  • Blame others
  • Scared
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Stressed

What support could you offer someone who feels powerless in the face of change?


Encourage acceptance

Helping and supporting a child or young person accept a situation can help them feel empowered.

This can be done by encouraging children and young people to:

  • Focusing on solutions.
  • Identifying strengths and abilities.
  • Identifying their needs.

Focus on their strengths

If a child and young person struggles to recognise solutions, you can ask some open-ended questions:

  • What are you good at?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What areas of your life have you been most successful (hobbies, school, family)?
  • Think of someone you admire or respect. What are that person’s greatest strengths? How do you know? Do you share any of those strengths?

Make sure it is a strength and not a skill. For example, gymnastics (skill) – the strength could be being disciplined.

Be a listening ear if it is needed

It’s always important for people to talk about how they may be feeling.

If you know someone who is struggling with feeling powerless, offer to be a listening ear for them.

Having a safe person to speak to can often reduce the feeling of powerlessness.

Why do children and young people feel lost and alone in a new place?

  • Feel isolated
  • Disconnected from old friends
  • Loss of community life
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Disabilities
  • Mental health issues

Raise awareness

Encourage children and young people to get involved in lunchtime and after-school clubs and activities.

Find out what they’re interested in and what they like to do, which will help you signpost effectively.


Signpost children and young people to things like befriending and mental health and wellbeing activities, like our Your Mind Matters Hub.

If  mental health and wellbeing support is needed, ensure they are included in discussions.


Ensure children and young people know where to go if they need to talk to a teacher or support worker.

If required, inform parents and carers of support the school offers.

Recognise and look for signs and symptoms of children or young people who are feeling worried about what lies ahead.

  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Irritable
  • Reckless
  • Aggressive
  • Sad
  • Anxious
  • Talk negatively about themselves
  • Show lack of expression
  • School attendance drops
  • Decline in schoolwork
  • Unexplained stomach aches, headaches, chest pains
  • Unexplained marks/scars (see our self-harm support for professionals resource)

Be approachable

Let children and young people feel they can approach you at anytime and that you are never too busy to listen.

Keep the lines of communication open at all times.

Be a listening ear when needed

It’s always important for people to talk about how they may be feeling.

Make them feel heard and that their feelings are validated.



Raise concerns

If you are concerned about a child or young person, approach them, if possible, on their own and express any changes you have noticed/concerns in class (such as being quiet – not answering questions).

If you do not know the child, ask open ended questions – For example, How are you settling in? is there anything you could help them with?

If you feel a child is at risk of suicide, please follow your school guidelines.

We hope you have found something useful which has helped.

When welcoming young people to their new civilian life, remind them that how they’re feeling won’t last forever, encourage them to focus on what they can control, provide a listening ear or introduce them to your friends, and that self-care is the cornerstone of everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.


We’re always here if you have any questions too!

Talk to us


If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can also:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.