Regularly checking in with your child will give you a baseline of how they are doing and will help you determine if they are out of their “normal” range and need more attention or assistance.
Check in and take your child’s emotional temperature regularly. Have them express their emotions in words. Here are some questions to ask to start the conversation:
“Think about how our behaviour feeds into our feelings. For example, if we are sad, we may feel like sleeping all day, but we need to think about whether that behaviour (sleeping) feeds the feeling we don’t want. What behaviour would feed a feeling of happiness?”
“Strong emotions can be scary sometimes and certain feelings like deep sadness or anxiety should be shared with an adult. Have you ever felt that way? Have you known another person who felt that way?”
“Emotions are like colours of the rainbow. Maybe red is anger, blue is sadness, pink is joy and purple is anxiety. You also may feel more than one emotion at a time. What are you feeling right now?”
“You seem different from your usual self. Do you sense yourself changing? How?”
“What does that feeling make you want to do?”
“When you get stressed, what does it look like? How do you know you are stressed? How do you handle it? What are some healthy ways to cope with stress?”
“Do you ever feel like talking to anyone else? What makes you feel more comfortable about sharing your feelings? How can I help?”
Stress can often be handled by talking and expressing yourself. If you feel your child is struggling with stress or anxiety or another mental health issue, ask your doctor for some support and a possible referral to a mental health professional. While you don’t want to panic, you do want to address concerns as quickly as you can.
Extracted, with permission, from The Parenting Project, by Amy Alamar and Kristine Schlichting (Frontlist, 2018).