Is your child lacking motivation at school?
Is he easily distracted or easily angered over little things?
When is it time to seek professional help?
According to Theresa Pong, Principal Counsellor at Focus on the Family Singapore, you should seek help if you feel that the behaviour is affecting your child’s daily function.
For instance, if his bad temper is preventing him from making (and keeping) friends or if he is struggling with academic work, it would be good to have a chat with his teacher to identify the possible issues and discern whether there is a need to seek professional help.
Additionally, if you notice sudden changes in his mood for no reason, it is important to be alert. For example if he loses interest in his usual hobbies, keeps to himself more, and becomes anxious or moody easily, it may be wise to seek help from a counsellor or psychologist.
How to understand and help your child
To begin with, we need to put on an investigator’s hat. See if you can pinpoint when the changes started to occur. Observe whether certain behaviours pop up in certain contexts, for example if your child complains of a headache only on days when there is PE at school, or Chinese tuition after school.
It can be helpful to note these incidents down as it is hard to remember when/where things happened after a period of time.
To have a better grasp of the situation, try talking to your child. Choose a time when both of you are calm and not in a rush. Mention that you’ve noticed him looking upset on certain days or falling ill on certain days, and that you are concerned for him.
Ask if he feels stressed about certain subjects or friends at school. It is important to give him time to articulate his feelings and avoid sounding anxious or jumping to conclusions.
Theresa advises, “Try to talk about how they are feeling. Learning to identify and articulate their emotions is important in developing their self-regulating skills. As parents, we can help our children identify situations that result in emotional meltdowns and use these situations as a platform to teach problem-solving skills.”
If your child says that no matter how much effort he puts in, he cannot understand the concepts or is unable to explain his struggle with a certain subject, it may be good to talk to his teacher to assess whether it is something worth exploring this at a deeper level – perhaps seeing a psychologist for assessment, planning for more academic coaching or simply by changing coaching strategies. In fact, using creative coaching strategies such as songs, LEGO blocks or drawing can help to make learning interesting and thus, motivate your children to learn better.
If he loses interest in his usual hobbies, keeps to himself more, and becomes anxious or moody easily, it may be wise to seek help.
However, if your child is feeling frustrated due to situations outside his control, such as friendships, conflicts at home, bullying, or major transitions in life (change in family arrangement or after school arrangement), tend to your child’s emotions and give him your listening ear. Simply listening and reflecting your child’s feelings back to him can be cathartic in helping him process big emotions, such as any stress and anxiety that he may be feeling.
Empathise with him before even discussing suggestions or solutions to the issues. If he continues to feel sad, moody or withdrawn, it would be good to seek counselling support.
Where to find counselling help
There are several places in Singapore that you can go to for counselling help.
Focus on the Family Singapore runs a counselling unit of about 8 professional counsellors. They provide counselling and emotional support for a range of personal and family issues, from managing stress and anxiety, parenting challenges to marital issues such as affair recovery.
Tinkle Friend (run by Singapore Children’s Society) offers a helpline catering to primary-school children. It operates from Mondays to Fridays, 2.30pm to 5pm. Dial 1800-274 4788 or head to its website for an online chat.
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is focused on suicide prevention. It runs a 24-hour crisis support hotline that is manned by trained volunteers. Dial 1800-221 4444.
A strong marriage also promotes a resilient child.
How to partner your spouse to help your child
Issues with a child can often stress the marital relationship. What then can couples do?
According to Theresa, it is helpful for parents to remind themselves that they are committed to each other and to helping each other cope with the stress. “Remember that marriage is about helping each other grow,” she added.
No matter what sort of challenges your child is facing, you can work together to overcome these with a learning heart and growth mindest.
Insodoing, you will be able to see the strengths that your spouse possesses, while also modelling to your child how challenges could be overcome.
Remember that a strong marriage also promotes a resilient child.
- If your child is experiencing problems at school or in relationships and needs a helping hand, do get in touch with our counselling unit here.
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