Updated: Sep 2, 2019
This is an article I wrote this time last year for Kids on the Coast Magazine about starting school. I thought this would be the perfect time to repost, with school around the corner for another year!
The start of a school year can be particularly stressful for children. For some kids, it is the start of their school journey and it can be tricky to identify that children might not be coping with the transition to formal schooling. It can also be frustrating for parents, who not only have to juggle other children/work/daily chores, but also have to continuously be bombarded with images of smiling children on social media, who appear to be loving school and easily transitioning!
Some of the behaviours to look out for, that might be red flags include:
- Biting of nails
- Bed wetting
- Tears at drop off (particularly if tears are lasting hours after you leave, or weeks into the school term)
- School refusal or avoidance
- Several physical complaints (i.e., sore tummy, head ache, sore knee)
- Struggles to get the school uniform on in the morning
- Meltdowns over homework or home readers
- Irregular sleep patterns
It is important to note that your child might not display all of these signs of anxiety, and if your child only exhibits one or two of these, engaging with a psychologist might be premature. In many cases, children will become accustomed to the routine of formal schooling, and will learn to regulate themselves. However, often children and parents might require the help of a child psychologist, who is trained to identify these problems and offer solutions.
Coming to the realisation that your child might need some form of psychological assistance isn’t easy. Unfortunately, there still remains a certain stigma around meeting with mental health professionals. But meeting with a trained professional does not mean your child is ‘nutty,’ it does not mean that you are a bad parent, and it certainly does not mean that you have failed as a parent. Seeking help for your child simply means that you are brave enough to be proactive about the situation. A child psychologist is a type of psychologist who studies the mental, social and emotional development of children. Child psychologists typically evaluate a child’s development from prenatal experiences, through the adolescence. Child psychologists may work with children across a range of ages, from infants through to teenagers. The main focus of a child psychologist it to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat developmental, social, and emotional concerns.
Child psychologists can provide both assessment and therapy for learning difficulties, behavioural concerns, mood disorders, anxiety-related disorders, developmental disorders, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, child psychologists can also provide support and assistance to children and families who may not have a specific diagnosis. The first step to helping your child with any concerns you may have, would be to book an initial appointment. Often, it is easier for parents to book an initial appointment with the psychologist without the child being present, so that the child doesn’t have to listen to everything that their parents think is troubling them.
Whether or not you choose to engage with a child psychologist, it is important that your child is aware that they can always come to you when they are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes as parents, it is easy to overlook the early warning signs of anxiety, especially if you have more than one child who requires attention! To avoid missing these signs, it might be worthwhile familiarising yourself with the social and emotional developmental milestones that your child should be meeting at their age. For example, at age five, a typically developing child should be able to solve social problems including negotiating, sharing, and conflict resolution, should be able to identify basic emotions and understand what situations cause them to feel these emotions, and should be able to regulate their emotions most of the time.