At least half of parents worry that their children may struggle with bullying, depression or anxiety, according to the Pew Research Center. So, if you fear for your troubled child, you’re not alone.
As a parent, though, you don’t just want to sit around and worry about your son or daughter — you want to help them. It’s a delicate topic to discuss with a kid, too. So, how can you help your troubled teenager or younger child?
Here are some of the best ways — and the most delicate methods for discussing them.
- Learn Their Triggers
Firstly, you should familiarize yourself with your child’s triggers. You’ve probably heard of someone being “triggered,” but it’s more than just a catchphrase.
If your child has endured some type of trauma, they may have internal or external reminders of that moment. And, when they experience these reminders, the same traumatized feelings can bubble back up to the surface. So, being triggered is more than feeling an emotion — it’s a full-on response to a shock or upsetting ordeal.
Of course, your son or daughter might not want to talk about their triggers. But if you can figure out what seems to upset them, you can work to lessen that anxiety.
- Create a Routine
Another way to improve your child’s mental health is to help them create a routine. There’s familiarity and certainty in a schedule — and that can help assuage at least some of their lingering stressors and fears.
As you put together a routine with your child, give them some ownership over what they do and don’t do. That way, they will have a sense of control over their life, which can help ground them and reduce anxiety, too.
- Stay Calm and Be Consistent
Your reaction to your troubled child’s behavior can make a lot of difference, too. You should know not to take their actions and words personally. Their trauma has nothing to do with you, but they may lash out because you are closest to them.
On that note, it’s important to approach your child with a level head. Keep your voice at a normal volume and try not to get upset or angry. Break eye contact, too — some troubled teens and kids will see staring as an aggressive move.
Finally, it’s vital that you maintain this behavior as your child or teen works through their issues. They need to know that you’re unwavering in your love and support. Over time, this will help them to build trust in you — but, remember, it will take time for them to feel this way, so your patience and consistency are very important.
Again, your child has gone through some painful, traumatic experiences to get them where they are. It’s going to take time for them to relearn the behaviors you hope to see. In the meantime, stick with it, stay calm, always be consistent and, eventually, you’ll be trusted once again.
- Accept Your Child’s Feelings
On that note, your behavior can be a model for a child who has a lot of feelings with which to deal. Not only will you show them that you are trustworthy, but it will help them unravel their own sentiments and feel more level.
Make sure your son or daughter knows that it’s okay for them to feel how they do. When they’re not upset, give them ideas on how they can express what’s bothering them without aggression or anger. For example, you might pick up a journal for your child where they can log their feelings.
And you can make it clear that you’re a non-judgmental third party to whom they can talk, too. And, when your child does confide in you or react with a level head, be sure to praise their behavior. Knowing they’re on the right path will be validating — and your troubled child will learn the right ways to deal with how they feel.
- Consider an Intensive Outpatient Program
Sometimes, though, you can’t help your child on your own. So, you might consider enlisting your troubled teenager or child into an intensive outpatient program.
An IOP for children is designed to help children whose behaviors and attitudes have changed sharply. For example, if your child has begun to suffer academically, experienced negative thoughts or fallen victim to bullying, they could do well with this treatment.
Most IOPs will put your children through both group and individual therapy sessions. In speaking to a group of kids their own age, they will learn that they aren’t alone in what they’re going through. And talking to a therapist one-on-one will help them open up about traumatic moments that they don’t want to share with group members.
Of course, many troubled children won’t want to go to an IOP. However, if you feel unable to help your child deal with their feelings and trauma, it may be the best option. And, in the end, your son or daughter will be better off for the help and tools they receive — and they will probably thank you for it.
Help Your Troubled Child Now
You’re not the only parent who has a troubled child, and you’re not alone in your search for ways to help. You can do your part by creating a safe environment at home. But you might consider therapy as an option, too.
No matter what, your son or daughter will be better off with your help. So, stay the course and do what feels right — your family will start healing as soon as your troubled child starts feeling like him or herself again.
And be sure to check back with us for more parenting and lifestyle advice.