As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. So when you notice worrisome changes in their behavior that don't align with their normal growth and development, it's so important to tune into your instincts. Getting help early on can make all the difference in supporting your child's health and wellbeing down the road.
The first step is overcoming the natural reaction of downplaying the behavior as "just a phase" or assuming it will pass on its own. Fear of judgment often holds parents back from taking action. But ignoring or minimizing early warning signs allows issues to escalate. Have compassion for yourself in this challenging situation. Then focus your energy on getting your child the support they need.
Here is a guide to recognizing the signs that something is off and taking thoughtful action to get your child back on track:
1. Trust Your Parental Instincts
Your intuition as a parent is powerful. If something feels off or you notice your once bubbly child become withdrawn or distant, don't dismiss it. Changes in mood, declining academic performance, loss of interest in activities, angry outbursts, or other acting out behaviors may indicate larger issues. It's essential to address these feelings head-on and seek understanding. Track specifics about changes in their behavior so you can share clear examples with doctors or counselors.
2. Open the Lines of Communication
Initiate an open, non-judgmental conversation with your child. Express your love and concern, and let them know you notice they don't seem like themselves lately. Ask open-ended questions about what's troubling them and make it clear you're there to listen and provide support. Don't force them to talk if they're not ready. Just ensuring they know you're available when they need you provides comfort. Praise their strength in coping so far.
3. Get an Objective Assessment
Consult your child's pediatrician, teachers, or coaches to get their perspectives on any behavioral changes. Having support from others who interact regularly with your child can validate your concerns. Request referrals for a thorough medical evaluation by a child psychologist or psychiatrist to identify any underlying issues requiring treatment, whether neurological, emotional, or substance abuse-related.
4. Educate Yourself on Their Challenges
Do research to better understand what your child is experiencing. For addiction, mental health disorders, trauma, or other behavioral issues, arming yourself with knowledge about that condition's symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options will help you navigate next steps. Reputable resources include the website for Family Coaching Services.
5. Avoid Blaming Yourself
It's easy to fall into a cycle of self-blame when challenges arise. Remember, conditions like addiction and mental illness are complex, involving a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors. Try not to dwell on guilt over "where did I go wrong?" Instead focus your energy on solutions for healing and moving forward.
6. Commit to the Healing Process
If evaluations by a trusted medical professional not associated with a treatment center reveal your child needs therapy or a behavioral health treatment program, commit to following professional recommendations closely. Attend family therapy sessions to build your healthy connection skills in supporting them through recovery. Help your child adhere to appointments, medications, or other treatments prescribed. While the road ahead will have ups and downs, your dedication demonstrates this is a temporary detour on the path towards health and wholeness. Continue to show up, no matter what! You get to work as hard as your child.
7. Stay Connected Through the Ups and Downs
Make time for enjoyable activities together, even on the hardest days. Ensure your child knows they are loved and valued. There may be setbacks like re-occurence of symptoms or stand-still points. But stay the course. This is a journey, not a destination. Focus on celebrating small wins together along the way. Practice positive reinforcement.
8. Practice Self-Health
You can't pour from an empty cup. Ensure you also carve out time for your own self-health like healthy meals, exercise, social connection, adequate sleep, educating yourself and activities you find rejuvenating. Consider joining a support group to share what you're going through with parents who understand. Therapists can also help you and your family process your emotions and re-energize.
9. Seek Additional Guidance
You don't have to navigate these challenges alone. Organizations like Family Coaching Services provide compassionate, judgment-free support from specialists with professional training combined with lived experience. Their services range from assessments and family coaching to change coaching, parent workshops, and ongoing support groups.
10. Stay Hopeful
Every challenge presents opportunity for growth. With professional help, open communication, commitment to emotional health, and self-compassion, you and your child can emerge stronger. Have faith that your child can reflect back one day on this time as a turning point towards lifelong resilience.
If something doesn't seem right with your child, start by trusting yourself. Then take the first step towards guiding them back on track to health and healing.
You've got this! Here are some key takeaways:
Call to Action
If you see troubling changes in your child and need guidance, reach out to me at Family Coaching Services today to learn more about my personalized approach to helping families heal and thrive together.