By JCS Therapy Services
With the return to school, parents often admit to having some worries about how their children will do in the year ahead. Will my child get good grades? Will my child have friends? Will my child be respectful in class? Will my child be happy?
We always hope the answer to those questions will be yes. If, however, you begin to see troubling signs in any of these areas and feel something may be wrong, trust your instincts and believe in yourself as a parent. No one knows your child better than you, but that does not mean you have to handle things on your own. In fact, it makes sense to reach out to professionals for guidance, and when you do, whether it is with a teacher, guidance counselor, or mental health professional, consider these tips for communicating your concerns.
Try to avoid putting labels on your child, like “lazy,” “bad,” or “weird,” which seems to attribute their behavior as a character flaw. Once that happens, it can skew people’s perceptions and make it difficult for your child to overcome that reputation. Often, too, a child may begin to act out in the way they are labelled because they have gotten the message, “this is you.” It becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead, share specific concerns about the behavior that is causing you concern and how that behavior is affecting your child’s life, functioning, relationships, and activities. For example, rather than saying, “Sam is lazy,” it is more helpful to explain, “Sam has been sitting around the house a lot and hasn’t shown interest in playing with friends. It has also been hard to get him to do homework or help around the house. Sam’s friends don’t call anymore, and his grades have slipped.” By removing the “lazy” label and instead sharing behavioral observations, you are providing valuable information that can help get to the root of what may be affecting your child. The same applies when talking with your child about your concerns, i.e.., instead of saying “You are lazy,” try “You’ve been sitting around the house a lot lately and don’t seem to want to play with your friends….” This can be a door opener that allows your child to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing.
This approach helps you begin to see things within a larger context and think about what might be contributing to the situation. Each piece of information is part of putting together a complete picture for you and for a professional, which can then lead to finding the underlying causes and the right solutions so your child can thrive and the answers to those questions you asked yourself about your child’s well-being become a resounding ‘yes’!
Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence.
To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.