So often, as therapists, we are asked to label a problem that is present in our children. Is this ADD, Autism, or behavior issues? Do we NEED a weekly session? How can we FIX this?
It is essential to identify a problem, especially one interfering with schooling or our children’s self-esteem. However, we need also to accept that children don’t have the language to tell us all their problems or their feelings-often as adults, we can’t always find this language. So children act out; they have tantrums, meltdowns, and they talk back. Their tantrums and meltdowns are their way of showing us they need something. Their bodies feel off, or something is bothering them, and we need to coach them through.
These behaviors can happen with labeling any diagnosis and usually with multiple. Some children might have problems managing anxiety, which causes them to struggle when things are out of their control. With Children that struggle with sensory issues it can become easily overwhelming and stressful due to their environment. Children with attention issues can become easily frustrated when things move too quickly for them or not quickly enough. A child with a learning issue will become frustrated when they don’t understand what is going on in school and avoid it.
How To Help Your Child
It is important for us to realize that each child is unique. We need to understand all the factors affecting their brains before labeling them. We need to look at their sleep and their diet. If they are having issues with their sleep schedule and forming an unhealthy diet their bodies will be off.
If they are overactive or under active, they need more exercise and outdoor time. An example could be, if a child is on a screen for more than an hour or two a day, this affects their brain patterns, and hormone production-outdoor play and exercise will help to regulate this.
Our patterns as parents and our level of stress also affect our children. For example, if we are too short, too authoritative, or not attending to their needs, our children start to do things for our attention or to call attention to themselves.
When we start labeling our children, we forget about the other factors that impact their health and wellness. We also begin to feel overwhelmed as parents and get this urge to solve the problem or take the problem away instead of accepting it as a piece of our child.
For example, a child with hyperactivity will always be high energy; it is part of their personality. So instead of labeling your child with the idea of, “There is something wrong with my child.” “They are always running around, and they are always going to struggle.” Take a step back and think, “My child has high energy; in order for me to help them feel that confidence, it is important that I them positive ways to focus their energy.” For example, putting a high-energy child in a sport or tae kwon do, involves them in using that energy. A therapist can teach them self-regulation techniques and help them understand their bodies and minds will help them positively navigate their hyperactivity.
Mindset matters for us as parents and for our children. When we are able to break away from labeling their problems and look more at the bigger picture of the tools, language, and environmental strategies, it can help our children-we start to build confidence and resiliency.