Signs Your Child Is Struggling and How to Help
Certain emotions can be hard for anyone to process, but even more so for children. They might not know how to react when they feel a certain way, so, as a parent, it is important to be aware of other signs your child may be struggling.
The signs are not always obvious. Instead of telling you how they feel, they might act out in behavioral ways or complain of physical discomforts.
The best thing you can do is pay attention. Note any sudden shifts in mood, behavior, or physical symptoms. These can be indicators your child could use some help coping. And, listen to your gut. Parents tend to have a sense something isn’t right.
Coping With COVID
The past few months, living during a global pandemic COVID-19, have been particularly challenging with everything being canceled and closed down. Now, as we begin another school year and our children and teens take on education in a new way—whether in-person or remote— it is perfectly normal for them to be having a hard time.
They might be mad that they have to wear a mask or confused as to why they can’t be in school with their friends. They might feel anxious about getting sick.
Whatever it is that is ailing them, what are some signs to watch for?
Physical signs your child is stressed:
- Upset Stomach
- Chest Pain
- Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
- Decreases in appetite, comfort-eating, or binge eating
- Pretending to be sick to avoid certain activities
Emotional signs your child is stressed:
- Mood swings
- New or recurring fears
- Increased crying, anger, stubbornness, or aggression
- Decreased concentration or motivation
- Emotional overreactions to minor events
- Regressing toward comforting behaviors like thumb-sucking, nail-biting, or sleeping with a stuffed animal
- Social isolation, withdrawal, or unwillingness to participate in activities they used to enjoy
There are lots of reasons your child might be struggling, COVID-related and beyond. They might be upset they didn’t make a sports team, frustrated or confused by things going on within the home, sad about something with friends, or feeling depressed and not knowing why.
As a parent you probably wish you could take their pain and frustration away, you want to fix things, but you might not know how.
How can you help?
1.) Recognize Anxiety is Contagious. Sometimes without even realizing we project our feelings onto those around us. If you are feeling anxious yourself, look inward, try to find your calm so you don’t pass on those anxious feelings to your children. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can be helpful. You may also want to consider counseling services for yourself so you can better work through your own struggles.
2.) Validate Your Child’s Feelings. Does what they are going through stink? It sure does. Talk to your child. Tell them it’s ok to feel angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed, etc. Whatever they are struggling with is ok. They don’t need to hide it from you. Help them to feel comfortable opening up about their struggles. Explain that they are not alone. Give them space to grieve.
3.) Avoid Referencing the Bigger Picture. Saying things like “life isn’t fair” or “we have to do this to keep others safe” aren’t going to help your child. Developmentally their worldview revolves around them, their friends, and their family.
4.) Stay Calm. If your child is emotionally unraveling it can be hard as a parent to keep your cool. You want them to relax but saying “just relax” is not the most helpful response. Instead, try to maintain your calm, be a listening ear. Coach them, point out the positives, tell them to breathe.
5.) Be Flexible. If your child struggles with anxiety they might not want to do something that you think they should be doing. Try to have some flexibility but also maintain a normal routine. Extra planning for transitions can be helpful as well. Maybe they need a little extra time or a pep talk.
6.) Modify Expectations & Praise Them for Accomplishments. During stressful times we all can have trouble getting things done. Modify your expectations for your child during challenging times and praise them for little things. For example at the end of a stressful e-learning day, tell them you are proud of them for sticking with it even though you know it was hard.
7.) Get Help. If your child is struggling consider getting them help. Online therapy options are available to connect your child to a therapist virtually. Counseling services can help teach your child ways to cope and manage their stress and disappointment in a healthy way. It is also good for parents to get the help they need so they are better able to support their child during these difficult times.
And, don’t forget to practice self-care. You also need breaks and an occasional reset to feel your best. You need to take care of yourself to take care of your child in the best way possible.
Searching For Online Counseling In Pennsylvania?
Counselors at CW Psychological Services are professionally-trained and licensed. We have openings for online, or telehealth, therapy appointments. Email us at [email protected] or call at (610) 308-7575. We are here for you.