We often see changes in our children’s behaviors, moods and character, yet we have no idea what’s going on! Maybe they’re more closed off and aren’t open to sharing. Maybe they tell us ‘everything is fine’. Perhaps they don’t actually know what is wrong, or can’t pinpoint what it is that’s bothering them.
It’s normal for children to go through phases where they struggle to express and understand their emotions. A lot of the time, parents can see their emotional struggles manifest in different ways. So, how can we know what signs to look out for?
Children often show their internal struggles through their behaviors, especially when they have difficulty expressing what they are experiencing. We always need to ask ourselves - “What could be going on behind these behaviors?”. A child’s behavior often tells us everything we need to know. They don’t behave to be ‘naughty’ - they are expressing something internal.
Below are some key behavioral changes to look out for:
Outbursts of anger or aggression (physical or verbal), having meltdowns
Isolating themselves or appearing withdrawn
Not looking after themselves - change in clothing, decline in personal hygiene
Picking at their skin, biting nails, pulling out their hair, scratching, or hitting themselves
A decline in confidence and self esteem
2. Academic changes
One of the first signs that indicate a child may be struggling, is a change in their schooling and grades. School is where our children spend the majority of their time. Going to school requires certain behaviors, commitments, responsibilities and pressures.
When a child is struggling emotionally, all of these factors are affected due to the overwhelming nature of school and learning. Oftentimes, school is the last thing they can manage or cope with during a time of struggle.
If there’s a sudden change in a child’s grades, ability to focus and/or behaviors surrounding school, we need to ask and investigate what is going on with them emotionally and mentally. It’s also crucial to investigate what is happening in their home or school environment.
Key academic and schooling signs to look out for:
Grades significantly declining
Behavioral challenges at school
Struggling to concentrate
Not doing homework or studying
Having a hard time socially
3. Physical symptoms
Our minds and bodies are interconnected. Anxiety and depression can present due to our body’s responses to our emotional state. In our practice, some children complain about having physical symptoms and so we always ask where they feel their emotions. Listening to our bodies is really important for monitoring our emotional health and for finding techniques to regulate our panic attacks.
Common physical symptoms to look out for:
Chest pains (panic attack)
4. Sleeping patterns
It is well known that if we are worried about something, our sleep gets affected. Stress or worry can lead to waking up during the night, struggling to fall asleep or sleeping more than usual. Sometimes, sleep is a coping tool and a sign that something is going on.
Sleep patterns to look out for:
Struggling to fall asleep
Waking up throughout the night
Struggling to wake up in the morning
Struggling to get out of bed
Sleeping a lot during the day
If you notice many of the above signs in your child, it is best to ask them what is going on and perhaps seek professional help if the signs persist.
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