The Best Ways To Help A Struggling Child
It is extremely difficult to witness a child that is struggling. As a parent or family member, you will do just about anything to help them but it can be difficult to know what the correct strategy is.
You want your approach to improve the situation for the child rather than making anything worse.
As our children get older, we will notice that there are so many more external influences in their lives. For a long time, we could protect them from so much simply by being the centre of their universe and the provider for their every need.
When they go to school they make new friends and participate in new activities which can have a huge impact on their personality and emotional well-being.
If you notice that a child is struggling it is really important to have a proactive approach. The situation can quickly escalate if we turn a blind eye to it. The reality is that children are prone to changes in their behaviour.
Many children will be affected by things like sugar intake and video games for example.
They can lead to a low mood and hyper or violent behaviour for example. For this reason, noticing that a child is struggling is not always straight forward.
School and sports club environments have so much to offer children in terms of emotional and physical growth but they can pose challenges at the same time. Being in a classroom with other children of the same age can highlight a very obvious difference in ability and skill when it comes to certain subjects or drills.
A child who may have previously oozed confidence may experience a knock if they notice that there are people in their class, or on their team, that are performing better than they are. This can be a difficult reality to accept and it can lead to an emotional struggle for that child. The knock in confidence can lead to them performing even more poorly in that particular area because they constantly notice those who are sailing through when they are struggling.
If you notice that your child is struggling in this way it is important to be a listening ear. Listening to your child’s concerns as well as validating them is extremely important for the child. They may not even know it but simply knowing that their struggle is not trivial is healing in itself. Reassuring your child that all children have different strengths and weaknesses will help them to feel less alone. You might consider highlighting one of their strengths. Mentioning that there are other children who would love to have that strength is also really powerful.
It actually benefits our children if we do not tell them that they are the best at everything that they do. It can add a lot of pressure as well as making it even more difficult to accept when they notice that this is not always the case.
It takes a village to raise a baby and the same can be said for raising a child in general. When a child is struggling there is always the possibility that you will require the help of other people. Talking to your child’s teacher is extremely helpful as they spend so much time with your child and they may be able to observe behaviours and patterns that you might never be exposed to. The teacher will work with you to help your child overcome the struggle they are experiencing.
In some cases, it is beneficial to tell the child that their teacher is on board. It highlights another trusted adult who has their best interests at heart. However, in other cases, your child may resent that their issue has been discussed with someone else. They may feel embarrassed and exposed. This is why there is no one rule that fits all.
When a child is struggling emotionally there may be an underlying issue present such as anxiety. There are so many supports available to help your child manage this. Play therapy and counselling can be really effective in pin-pointing the source and that is half the battle. Many children, just like adults, will have triggers and these may need to be managed and controlled in a different way to ensure that the child is comfortable.
Many children struggle with a change in routine for example. They thrive on knowing what to expect next and when that routine is in any way disturbed it throws them completely. This can lead to challenging behaviour such as refusing to go to school or refusing to eat or speak. In these situations, your public health nurse or GP will be able to recommend an appropriate service or referral to help your child.
The most important thing for a struggling child is that they experience empathy, compassion and an open-door policy. Knowing that there is always a safe place and person to speak to is vital.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.