Have you asked your child what’s going on? Asking is very different from accusing or interrogating.
Have you had a quiet, compassionate, heart-to-heart conversation with your child in which you express your worries, announce your love, listen to your child’s concerns, and collaborate with him or her on creating some strategies that might help your child deal with the problems that he or she is experiencing? Are you in the habit of checking in with your child so as to understand what he or she is thinking and feeling? If you haven’t gotten into that habit, wouldn’t that be a great habit to cultivate?
Of course, your child may be close-lipped, have no way to express what’s going, feel scared about pointing a finger, feel obliged to act like everything’s okay, and in other ways prove uncommunicative or evasive. This will test your patience; therefore, you will need to be your most patient. Set up such chats so that you are undisturbed, maybe by making an outing of it or waiting until the younger kids are asleep. Even if a given chat goes nowhere, you are announcing that you are available for such chats and that your child can feel safe revealing what’s bothering him or her. Wouldn’t it seem rather odd to ask everyone under the sun what’s going on with your child and not ask your child? Ask him or her first.
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.