Stress and anxiety are some of the most common mental illnesses suffered by numerous people around the world, adults and children alike.
While adults are able to understand their conflict, children are not. They don’t have enough emotional intelligence yet to describe what they are feeling and why. This increases the confusion further in their innocent minds, and dealing with stress becomes harder. They are unable to verbalize their feelings, which are then internalized and trigger anxiety and depression.
The tips mentioned below might be able to give you some context into how you can help your child;
Look For Signs
When a child suffers a tragic event or is bothered and confused about something, they become distracted from their fixed routines. You can figure out if something’s wrong by looking out for signs in your child’s eating, sleeping, playing and studying patterns.
If your child seems isolated and distant form their play, is aggressive and doesn’t eat even their favorite meals, then something might be wrong. While some children become isolated, others might become overly attached and dependant; looking for comfort and soothing.
Although it might seem little to you, these signs are of significance when a child displays them. Don’t ignore them, take count and assist them in recognizing and verbalizing their feelings.
Be Patient and Flexible
When a child faces a stressful situation their long standing security developed from their routines can be taken in an instant. The shock and unfamiliarity with the sudden change can leave your child confused and dazed.
Just like the routines took their time to develop, rebuilding them and making them feel safe again will take its time too. Be patient with them and give them their due time and space to figure out their emotions
Similarly you can’t be strict with the process. You might need to change routines and be flexible with your child to ensure success in their recovery. If they need you to sit with them a bit longer or check under the bed for monsters, then do so. If they ask to take around the house to see you actually lock all the doors and windows, then take them with you. They get their reassurance and their feeling of safety back from these small changes.
Don’t Make the Incident a Common Discussion
Don’t bring up the discussion about “what happened” frequently! It’s understandable that you might do this as an attempt to learn if your child is doing okay, but children need their space.
After you have taught them that they need to tell you what they are feeling, actually give them the space and opportunity to verbalize their feeling on their own terms. Children process information and feelings differently than adults. Some moments they will think about the issue all day, but next hour it will be less of a concern for them. Constant discussion, unless initiated by the child, is counter-productive and only makes the child relive their trauma.
Get the Whole Family Together
What I mean is, get your whole family involved in activities to bond with your child. Parents, siblings and other care givers are the immediate connection they have with other humans. Doing activities and bonding with them, gives them the surety that you are available for understanding and willing to assist them should they need it.
Do family activities and increase your engagement with your child; play games, help them in their homework and spend more quality time together. This will help your child rebuild their sense of safety, trust and dependability and highlight that they are loved.
Seek Professional Help
Being a parent, you might not be having all the answers; there will be times when you are unable to figure out how to help your child. In these situations you might need professional help.
If you are in such a situation, then you can book session with me here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. With different therapies that fit your child’s psyche, I can help them find the path to healing and the treatment they deserve.
Arnzie Johnson LCSW, RPT