Does your child seem sad or down? Is it hard to talk with her/him about how s/he feels? Does your child seem pretty slow to respond or just ignore you when you ask a question? Does she seem quieter than usual? Is he acting out more at home or school? Is she a bit more irritable at simple things? Is your child isolating in his/her room more? Does it seem she is preoccupied with things which keep her from finishing her homework or chores? Does he take longer than usual time to get ready for school or other activities? Does she seem to be not so excited about activities she once really enjoyed? Has he lost interest in playing with his friends? Have there been any changes in the family that have been difficult for your child? Does she seem less happy than before any changes that have occurred in her life over the past few weeks or months? Does your child talk about the future being bleak or miserable? Has your child talked about giving away or has actually given away any of his/her favorite toys or keepsakes?
If your feeling stressed out or concerned about the unfavorable changes you have observed in your child, we can help. Many parents have encountered a lot of these changes and have expressed a need for getting counseling for their child. There is hope and healing in addressing your concerns with your child. As counselors, we have training, compassion, empathy, and a calling to help your child, you and your family through tough and difficult times in your lives. Providing therapy for your child, for you as a parent, for your family is what we do. You are not alone.
You may have doubts about ways to help your child. That’s okay. Let’s look at some ways to clear up these doubts and shed some light on how you can engage and help your child.
Be aware of your own thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitude
Recognize how each of these may come across with your child. Sometimes parents don’t realize that the stress, their reactions to others, what they are going through can be picked up by their children. Your child may not really know what you are going through but can pick up on grumpiness, anger, sadness, and other expressions. Acknowledge your own mood and find adult support yourself. If you are at odds with your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, limit your conflict with them in front of the children and resolve it between yourselves. Conflict is a part of family life but practicing self-control and responsibility is role-modeling for your child. If you do “snap” at your child, consider some initial space between you for a short time so you can gather yourself and then apologize (and mean it).
When our children see us busy with life, they may be hesitant to speak to us. If they are scared, sad, angry, or not sure what they are feeling, it will be very difficult for many kids to come to their parent. When you check in with them, just hang out with them, ask simple open-ended questions and wait for a response. Relax and let them answer in their own time. In essence, be a part of their lives. Play with them. If they are able, have them help you with simple, easy to do activities. Consider helping them with a chore or two. “Hey, mom has some time, can I help you do your chores?” Be mindful of their mood as well as be mindful of you helping one and not another (if you have more then one child).
Create supportive environment
Communicate receptiveness to your child. Talk about life, fond memories, something you may have learned in your day that they could understand, offer hugs, smiles, and at times opportunities for them to “vent”. Set the rules for the venting (such as share their own feelings and frustrations, self-responsibility, no name calling, no blaming, no foul language, no physical acting out like kicking, breaking stuff, etc.). Keep from “smothering” or “helicopter parenting” them. Allow them some space while still being vigilant with their mood and behavior. Children have a sense of simpleness, resiliency, and flexibility.
Look for signs
If your child is sad for days at a time, isolates from you and others, makes a “scene” in order to be “sent to his/her room”, talks about wishing he/she wasn’t around, acts out (such as yelling, pushing, name-calling, blaming them for things, etc.) with siblings or exercises a defiant attitude, noticeable changes in appetite or sleep, talks down about herself/himself, avoids consistent eye contact, has bad dreams or nightmares, or becomes disinterested in once enjoyed activities (such as playing with dolls, coloring, building with blocks, playing certain video games, riding bike, playing with friends, playing musical instrument, playing sports, etc.). These and other signs may be clearly indicating a need or cry for help. If he/she wants to give away cherished items or favorite toys, talks bleak about the future, wishes he/she was dead, cuts self or other self-inflicting gestures, seek immediate help.
Get counseling help
During and after you provide your assistance for your child, he/she may still need professional intervention. An objective 3rd party who has training in the counsel of children, childhood depression, anxiety, anger, and other disorders is a positive person to seek. Certainly ask questions about the counselor’s training, education, background, and experience. Ask about his/her approach with children and ways you can continue to be supportive of y9our child throughout the counseling process.
Remember we are here to provide a safe, inviting, warm and caring environment for your child, for you and your family. We have counselors who are educated, trained in childhood issues and with their families can help your child through their depression and other struggles they are facing. Our counselors have a character of compassion, empathy, acceptance, and care. Your child’s well-being is worth the investment as counseling may be such a vital and valued process. You may call us at 520-292-9750 or send an email to Joel@pathwaystucson.com for further assistance and to set up an appointment.