Tantrums, hyperactivity, avoidance, concentration issues, stomach aches, erratic behaviour….
We punish the tantrum, medicate the ADHD symptom, or pick up our child from the school nurse when they are struggling. Although we may wait months for an appointment with a psychiatrist, we are often only in their office for 20-30 minutes. There isn’t space to discuss your intuition about what may be going on underneath the surface for your child. You know your child better than any professional ever will, but mental health guidance is often haphazard and hurried.
Our children deserve care that looks at the whole picture, that connects the dots, that dares to find out what is going on under the murky water. As parents, we often end up navigating these waters by ourselves. It can be incredibly frightening, but here are some tools to help:
1) What’s under the surface? The symptoms you are seeing (worry, sadness, anger) are merely smoke signals sent to say “I need help”. We cannot protect our children from life’s inevitable struggles, but we can be intentional, compassionate guides for them.
We can ask ourselves:
– What is my child’s underlying need?
– What stressors are there in their environment?
– How do we reduce them?
– What relationships in the child’s life are hurting?
– How do we heal these relationships?
– What skills is my child needing to work on?
– How do we work on these skills in a respectful, empowering way?
– What is one small change we can make today?
2) Talk to your child. We often find that going for a walk or a long car drive leads to some of the best conversations. When they talk, listen deeply with an open heart. Refrain from talking too much or from filling in the silences. Breathe warmth and authenticity into the space.
These conversations can be difficult as there may be times when we need to take a deep dive into really looking at our relationship with our child. These conversations will require us to have engaged in some of our own healing work and self-care. When we approach these tender moments with vulnerability, our child learns the power of vulnerability. When we are courageous, our child is more likely to be courageous.
3) Take into consideration the whole child. The brain, body, and emotions work together as a system, and we cannot impact one part without it having a ripple effect on the others. We need to consider their sleep, diet, screen time, allergies, transitions, life changes, health issues, routines, exercise, the quality of their attachments, and the psychological health of others around them. Mental health is all about balance, and we suggest a holistic lens to view your child—what might be out of balance for your child and causing overwhelm?
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