READ THIS BE­FORE YOU MOVE IN WITH HIM SIM­PLE WAYS TO UP YOUR LOVE GAME

Sud­denly your child is BEDWETTING, feels ANX­IOUS, speaks LIKE A BABY or sucks their THUMB – all th­ese are SIGNS of a PROB­LEM. Psy­chol­o­gists tell us the causes and of­fer ad­vice.

True Love - - Front Page - BY SISONKE LABASE

Your child has started act­ing strangely and as their par­ent, you know there’s a prob­lem but can’t tell what it is. Coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist Then­jiwe Nh­lapo says it could be any­thing: “For in­stance, when a child re­fuses to go to school or com­plains that it’s bor­ing, is ag­gres­sive or has an­gry out­bursts, gets anx­ious or ner­vous when talk­ing about school and dis­plays re­gres­sive be­hav­iour such as act­ing or speak­ing like a baby, suck­ing their thumb or bedwetting. Th­ese are signs that some­thing ’s wrong at school.”

Zoz­ib­ini, 30, says: “When my son started school, he was very ex­cited at first. But one Mon­day morn­ing, he started cry­ing when I woke him up. I knew there was a prob­lem.”

Ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist Cara Blackie adds that there are many rea­sons that could cause a child to start act­ing out. “It’s best that you fol­low up to find out what the prob­lem is,” she warns. “Be pa­tient and sup­port­ive. Your child is prob­a­bly aware of their short­com­ings and is al­ready frus­trated, which could lead to self-es­teem dif­fi­cul­ties and de­pres­sion.” LEARN­ING DIFFICULTY When chil­dren are not cop­ing with a prob­lem it some­times has to do with their learn­ing abil­ity. “Learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties can be hard to di­ag­nose, which is why par­ents need to have a good re­la­tion­ship with their child and their teach­ers, so they can tell you if they no­tice any­thing par­tic­u­lar or if they are wor­ried about some­thing,” says Blackie. “Also, be in­volved daily. Do home­work to­gether and en­gage them, and you’ll see if they’re strug­gling. It’s nor­mal for chil­dren to mix up ‘B’ and ‘D’ or sim­i­lar sounds, but if this per­sists till grade 3, you can seek pro­fes­sional help.”

Coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist Char­lene McIn­tosh em­pha­sises that par­ents should not make the learn­ing difficulty the end of the road, but rather find pos­i­tives that their child might have. “Seek pro­fes­sional sup­port and keep things in per­spec­tive. A learn­ing dis­abil­ity isn’t in­sur­mount­able. Re­mind your­self that ev­ery­one faces ob­sta­cles.

“As a par­ent you need to teach your child on how to deal with ob­sta­cles with­out mak­ing them to feel dis­cour­aged or over­whelmed. Re­mem­ber that your child is so much more than just scholas­tic skills and num­bers and scores on pa­per, or a di­ag­no­sis,” says the Dur­ban based psy­chol­o­gist.”

Zuki, 35 is a mother of one. Her son’s school said he had at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der (ADD) and told her to put him on med­i­ca­tion to help him con­cen­trate. “I think schools are lazy at times,” she says, “be­cause which seven-year-old boy isn’t full of en­ergy and doesn’t get dis­tracted eas­ily? My son’s teacher said we should get him checked out as he might have ADD. She rec­om­mended that he take Ri­talin.

“I did none of that. With the help of an ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist I found other ways to help my son. I didn’t be­lieve med­i­ca­tion would solve his prob­lems. He is 10 now and do­ing well at school. He has no prob­lems, so the games we down­loaded on­line and all the colour­ful, fun ways we learnt for do­ing home­work clearly helped.”

McIn­tosh adds: “Focus on the child’s strengths, not their weak­nesses. Ev­ery child is unique. De­velop your child’s self­es­teem by fo­cus­ing on what makes them spe­cial, what they con­trib­ute to the fam­ily. Give them com­pli­ments, like ‘you are a clever boy’ so it builds their con­fi­dence.”

BE­ING BUL­LIED

A 2014 sur­vey by con­sumer in­sights com­pany Pon­der­ing Panda found that bul­ly­ing at school is a re­al­ity. The com­pany in­ter­viewed 5 314 pupils, teach­ers and fam­ily mem­bers be­tween the ages of 13 and 34 across the coun­try. Its sur­vey found that 36% of re­spon­dents de­scribed bul­ly­ing as one of the big­gest prob­lems at school, com­pared with 28% a year ago. But how would you know if your child was be­ing bul­lied? Chil­dren can be mean, es­pe­cially to the new child in a grade, and older chil­dren can also take ad­van­tage of younger ones. Nh­lapo says there are sev­eral indicators of bul­ly­ing hap­pen­ing. “Par­ents can start watch­ing out for be­havioural changes like: re­fusal to go to school, re­ports of bod­ily pains, de­stroyed pos­ses­sions – such as a bro­ken lunch­box or torn clothes – un­ex­plained in­juries, ir­reg­u­lar sleep­ing pat­terns or night­mares, sud­den changes in eat­ing pat­terns – for ex­am­ple, not eat­ing or binge eat­ing – avoid­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and not want­ing to be seen in public.

“Also, watch for sud­den ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour such as see­ing your child be­ing ag­gres­sive to­wards other sib­lings or with friends they never fought with be­fore, or be­ing de­fi­ant to­wards you. Th­ese can all be signs that your child is be­ing bul­lied.”

Te­bogo, 38, a lawyer and mother of two, thought hav­ing her daugh­ters in dif­fer­ent schools would al­low them to blos­som with­out one be­ing in the shadow of the other. “My chil­dren are five years apart, so I de­cided they should be in­de­pen­dent and have their own per­son­al­i­ties and lives. I put them in dif­fer­ent schools. I re­gret­ted that when I found out that my youngest was be­ing bul­lied. I felt if her older sis­ter was around, that wouldn’t have hap­pened.”

Con­stant communication with your child is the best so­lu­tion to prob­lems that may arise. As Blackie says: “If you have a great re­la­tion­ship with your child, you can see, and have them tell you, if there are any prob­lems. Some may tell you straight out. But in many in­stances, chil­dren may not tell, so par­ents need to ask ques­tions ev­ery day. Af­ter school lis­ten closely to what they say. Don’t just dis­miss what they say as noth­ing,” she con­tin­ues. “If the line goes like, ‘So-and-so is mean and won’t play with me’, is a con­stant re­frain, and the same child is be­ing men­tioned ev­ery time your child is sad or up­set, go and talk to the teacher. Hence, a good re­la­tion­ship with the child’s teacher is vi­tal,” ad­vises Blackie.

PROB­LEMS AT HOME

Whether it’s a fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, a sepa­ra­tion, con­stant fights and ar­gu­ing, phys­i­cal or emo­tional abuse in or out­side the home, can af­fect your child’s per­for­mance at school. Re­searchers at Harvard Uni­ver­sity’s Cen­ter on the De­vel­op­ing Child say when the home is not sta­ble, it may af­fect a child in one way or another – and even make them not to de­velop at all, limit their suc­cess in el­e­men­tary school and later life.

When Zoe, 35, sep­a­rated from her hus­band, Sipho, it af­fected their nine-year-old child neg­a­tively. “My son has al­ways been close to his dad. They did ev­ery­thing to­gether. Then he moved out as we were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mar­i­tal prob­lems. This af­fected him badly.

“He started direct­ing his anger at me. I thought it would pass, but he has been start­ing fights at school. We are now see­ing a ther­a­pist to­gether as a fam­ily to try to work things out and have him speak about his anger,” she says. “We also want to re­as­sure him that mommy and daddy are no longer liv­ing to­gether but we’l l al­ways love and care for him.”

Nh­lapo ad­vises that hon­esty is best if there are changes loom­ing in the house­hold. Sit your chil­dren down and ex­plain what is hap­pen­ing. “The most im­por­tant thing chil­dren need is to feel safe and se­cure in their en­vi­ron­ment,” she says.

“When par­ents are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any dif­fi­cul­ties, they need to re­as­sure chil­dren by speak­ing about the is­sues. If par­ents do not talk about ev­i­dent prob­lems in the fam­ily, the child will draw their own con­clu­sions, which of­ten leaves them stressed out about their par­ents.

“Also, be­ing too vul­ner­a­ble in front of the chil­dren can make your off­spring con­clude that their par­ents can­not han­dle the sit­u­a­tion, which then causes them to worry about their par­ents when at school.

“So, to help chil­dren feel safe and se­cure, it’s im­por­tant to re­as­sure your chil­dren that you as the par­ent(s) are aware of the sit­u­a­tion but are able to man­age it, and that things re­main nor­mal,” she says.

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