All humans encounter challenges throughout their lives. It would be naïve to assume that children do not experience challenges as well. Determining when your child is struggling beyond what is neuro-typical can be difficult. When do you determine if a meltdown is developmentally appropriate or if it is something more concerning?
First, it is important to understand that some struggles are normal and healthy. Starting school, adjusting to a new sibling, or even having a fit around nap time is developmentally appropriate. Remember, your child is still trying to learn how to manage stressful situations and their emotions. In most cases, when you offer support, patience, and understanding, your child will be able to navigate around these experiences. It is normal to want to jump in and help find a solution for your child but offering a listening ear may be all that is required. Using statements such as “I can see that this is really hard for you;” or “this is making you upset” offers an opportunity for you and your child to communicate better. You may be surprised with how these statements validate your child and increase their desire to want to talk to you about what they may be going through!
However, what seems like may be a typical situation can sometimes become more severe, requiring intervention. Symptoms that appear more frequently, intense, or last longer than normal behaviors typically indicate that your child might need therapeutic support. Symptoms such as low self-esteem, excessive worrying, expressed hopelessness, isolating themselves, self-destructive behaviors, or statements relating to death signal that your child would benefit from seeing a therapist. You may also see subtle signs that your child is beginning to develop problems in multiple areas of their life, such as family relationships, school behaviors, recreational activities, sleep/appetite habits, and social relationships. Through these subtle signs that may be disruptive to our lives, your child is expressing that they need help.
The best thing you can do for your child is to trust your gut. If something does not feel right, get it checked out. Reach out to your physician or a mental health therapist for guidance. Even if the problems are not severe, therapy can help your child and your family learn new coping skills, ways to overcome life’s challenges and improve family attachments.
You can read my article in the South Huntsville Neighbors Magazine!