Child & Adolescent Therapy

Table of Contents

Michelle Barratt Psychology is a Toowong and Redland Bay / Wynnum – Manly Clinical Psychology Practice, and aims to provide treatment for Child & Adolescent Therapy in Brisbane at the highest standard. The practice values implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support their clients feel safe, heard and understood, but also strives to offer effective treatment that will empower clients to learn new skills to support them in the future. If you are unsure about what you are dealing with, please don’t hesitate to contact us to support you through the next step of either working out what to do or how to proceed with an appointment.

The following information on therapy for children and adolescents will give you some insight disorders and challenges young people are faced with today.

Michelle Barratt Psychology aims to provide treatment at the highest standard; implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support a person feel heard and understood, but a treatment plan that empowers their clients to reverse and work through the causal factors of anxiety or depression in order that they can implement preventative strategies to help protect them in the future. We aim to support all children, all adolescents, and all adults, couples and family’s to succeed in their ultimate wellbeing. If you are unsure about what you are dealing with, please don’t hesitate to contact us to support you through the next step of either working out what to do or how to proceed with an appointment.

At Michelle Barratt Psychology our psychologists focus their passion for all children, adolescents and young adults to be positive, healthy, proactive and eventually fully functioning independent young people.

Our experience is with children from the ages of 3 years to young adults (age 25). We offer a professional service to children, adolescents and young adults alike, which fundamentally focuses on offering a therapeutic environment where our clients feel that psychological sessions provide them a place where children can grow feeling safe and supported.

We understand that often children forget things – they sometimes forget to bring home their hat, or their homework, or they might appear to act impulsively or say a thing or two without thinking it seems, and seem a little fidgety especially when tired.​

Types of ADHD Medications

Types of ADHD Medications

The two main categories of ADHD medications are stimulants and non-stimulants. ADHD medications work by improving the way certain parts of the brain communicate with each other. All classes of ADHD medication may cause some side effects. There are several kinds of ADHD medications. They affect the way parts of the brain communicate with each other.

​However, ADHD children generally tend to be (Hyperactive Type):​

  • Struggle to sit still most of the time,
  • Constantly fidget.
  • Never seem to listen.
  • Just don’t appear to be able to follow instructions no matter how clearly you say what you ask them to do.
  • Can at times say inappropriate things at inappropriate times and
  • Generally their behaviour just seems impulsive and difficult to deal with.
  • They don’t appear to sit long enough to finish tasks.
  • You get the impression they don’t or cannot concentrate for long periods of time and
  • Because they are losing self-esteem because they cannot attend tot the tings they know they need to attend to, it can seem like they are losing interest.
  • They can too become irritable and when they need to concentrate the most, are just too tired to.

Unfortunately these children are often labelled as the troublemakers or the children who are just lazy or undisciplined, BUT they may actually have ADHD/ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and really do require the right professional support.

Onset
Normally ADHD appears in early childhood. If you think your child carries some of the above characteristics, it’s advisable to either speak with your GP about it and they can recommend someone for you to gain further professional advice for your child and to determine whether they are suffering from ADHD or not.

What to do
If one of your children do have ADHD/ADD, a psychologist can provide the support and skills your child will require to learn and guide them so that they can get the most out of their education, continue to maintain strong family bonds/relationships and build and maintain the friendships they do make at school.

Impact of ADHD

  • Unfortunately for a child trying to learn at school when they simply are struggling to concentrate is very difficult. They can begin to feel frustrated and despondent with their progress and their inability to get through a task.
  • In addition, because of their behaviour, it can make it difficult for them to make and or maintain friendships. This more often than not leads to other issues like for example, developing low self-esteem and with the loss of friendship connections they lose the opportunity to continue to build and develop their social skills as they grow older.

Michelle Barratt would encourage every parent to at least seek an assessment. If your child does have any of the symptoms of ADHD, she would cherish the opportunity to connect with your child to support them and guide them through this process of learning.

Michelle’s Child Psychology Therapy is entirely child/client-focused and tries to ensure the child feels safe and understood through their learning. Michelle’s skills enable her to work not only with the child, but also alongside the family in order that the child is supported with effective strategies at every opportunity.

Fundamentally, her main focus is to provide the most effective strategies to help the child adjust and grow through and hopefully out of the symptoms of ADHD so that they can live normal, healthy lives.

Michelle’s experience has involved working with children from the ages of 3 years to young adults. Her service to children, adolescents and young adults alike, fundamentally endeavours to offer a therapeutic environment where her clients feel that psychological sessions offer them a place they can feel trusted, supported and safe.

Psychological sessions will include a practice that will ensure that her clients no matter their situation, issues or age, will offer them the best chance of understanding their outcomes and reaching their goals.

Michelle’s main focus is to ensure that individuals, children, adolescents and families receive the best psychological support through counselling and or therapy that addresses any type of trauma or maladjustment to trying to cope with a negative or difficult situation.

Psychological sessions will use psychological assessments and implement interventions that will only utilize evidence-based practice for her interventions and treatment planning. Research has found that psychology sessions bring a wealth of support and reprieve to the lives of many individual’s that have long-lasting effects.

All sessions ensure confidentiality, and a duty of care, that would involve risk assessments for self-harm, child-abuse and suicide, as well as implementing wrap-around-care (a multi-disciplinary approach) with those that would offer the best overall support and direction for her clients.

Author: Michelle Barratt

ADOLESCENT ANXIETY

Adolescents experiencing anxiety of any form can be incredibly inhibiting for them.
Anxiety is experienced by children and adolescents for a number of reasons: Feeling threatened, experiencing or having experienced high levels of conflict, fear, feeling helpless, having their basic needs unmet, experiencing severe health issues, peer pressure, isolation and being bullied and could be experienced after an incident of trauma or long periods of trauma.

Impact of Anxiety

Often it can limit or inhibit the enriched experiences parents wish for their children to have so that they can learn and grow within themselves. Anxiety can inhibit an adolescent’s ability to build strong and secure bonds with peers and thus social skills that they require to develop and forge more opportunities for themselves are again lost. Most importantly anxiety can inhibit a child or adolescent to build high self-esteem, self-worth and acquire the confidence they need to go out and enjoy the things they often only imagine or dream of doing. Severe anxiety can cause low concentration, poor memory and can at times develop high levels of stress for the child or adolescent because they can feel themselves getting behind in school and this is where parents offer struggle with school refusal with their children.

As mentioned above, anxiety can impact on a child’s ability to make friends, and impair their ability to feel heard and understood as very important people. All parents want their children to grow up healthy, confident, strong and happy within themselves and this is where psychological therapy can support your child and or adolescent.

Psychological interventions or psychological treatments such as understanding their anxiety and its triggers, as well as play therapy, role playing and imaginal and or exposure therapy can go a long way toward helping children manage and alleviate their anxiety. For adults, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can be an effective intervention for anxiety. It is therefore imperative that if you see any signs of anxiety that it is addressed as soon as possible.

Some signs of anxiety from three different parts of our functioning:

  • Behavioural Symptoms
  • Cognitive Symptoms
  • Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of anxiety

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Shaking/trembling
  • DizzinessTachycardia, rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in arms, hands or legs
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Nail biting

Impact of Anxiety

  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Pacing
  • Pressured speech
  • Fidgeting with ones hands
  • Avoidance of feared situations or objects

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mind going blank
  • Recurrent thoughts

Adolescent Depression

Research has found that many adolescents suffer from depression, and unfortunately as young as 6 or 7 (child depression). Depression is not a mental illness that will evolve over-night in your children; rather it is considered as an insidious illness that often develops stealthily over time. Your once engaging happy child has become a sad, withdrawn, demotivated, irritated, and often disorganised teenager. Assessing teenage depression can be difficult because often adolescents are described and known to be withdrawn, often not wanting to engage with their parents and stay in their room, with some family’s reporting to eat in their room too. So ‘disengaged adolescents’ are often overlooked, but parents, check-in with your child, and if you think there is a significant change from what your child used to engage in or do, don’t hesitate to seek professional support and encourage your child to engage with someone that will listen to their concerns confidentially. hat different causes too.

For your children, and adolescents alike, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Little to no self-worth – not making good decisions to support themselves in school or with their peers.
  • Change in sleeping patterns – ‘struggling to fall asleep’ ‘waking up’ at night and not being able to fall back to sleep and struggling to wake up in the morning when you wake.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Loss of weight or weight gain by 5% of your standard general weight in the last couple of weeks.
  • Less ability to control emotions: e.g., increased levels of pessimism, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety.
  • Appetite is usually reduced, sometimes individuals feel they have to force themselves to eat. Not wanting to sit at the dinner table with the family, or engage in conversation.
  • Emotions experienced during the day are incredibly variable: for example, feeling better in the morning but increasingly unhappy as the day progresses.
  • Reduced capacity to find pleasure in doing things or in what one ‘used to’ find pleasure in and,
  • Not looking forward to doing things anymore – even when exciting things are planned that used to get them excited.
  • When they withdraw from their hobbies, friends or not want to attend holidays or engage with the family.
  • Reduced pain tolerance: you are less able to tolerate aches and pains and or have a host of new ailments; reported often or for no reason at all.
  • Poor concentration and memory, and unwillingness to address homework requirements:
  • Reduced motivation: it doesn’t seem worth the effort like it did before to do anything – a real sense of ‘meaninglessness’
  • Lowered levels of energy and disengagement.
  • Social impairment – difficulty dealing with work or relationships, and a withdrawal from their friends.
  • There may be frequent reference to death, suicide ideation, or suicide attempts. These thoughts can range from a believe that others would be better off if the person ‘with depression’ was dead, to other recurrent thoughts of committing suicide to actual plans on how to do it.
  • Any reports of self-harm.

Please note: that in regards to any thoughts of suicide – please follow up with professional support.

How Therapy For Adolescents Can Help?

Psychological Therapy for children and adolescents has been proven (when your adolescent wants to seek support) to support teenagers develop awareness about themselves, and understand themselves better. Teenagers might need to talk through their emotions and learn and accept that certain issues or circumstances in their life are not healthy for them to continue to engage in. It is an environment for them to feel safe because they are not judged for what or how they think. Teenagers are facing external stressors and pressures like no teenagers before them have ever had to face, and these issues for them can be extremely stressful and scary for them. Giving them someone they can be confidential with and trust won’t judge them can create a space where they can feel safe to develop the confidence to understand their needs and enhance coping strategies to function effectively, and inevitably enhancing their self-esteem. All in all psychologists work through reviewing a teenagers problem solving, time-management, social, organisational, and communication skills, and offer all our teenagers the opportunity to increase their skills to make these areas in their life as effective as possible.

If you believe your teenagers need further support, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how we may do this? If you suspect they have depression, anxiety, adhd, or are self-harming, please feel free to call us or email us in the contact form below to set up a Parent Appointment to discuss the best support for your child, or to just obtain advice or support for us to support you on what best to do next.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Building a Child's Self Esteem

A Child or Adolescent Clinical Psychologist can help support you child build a self-esteem that will provide them with the confidence to believe in themselves again. Self esteem is the result of how a person regards him or her self:

  • On their physical appearance
  • On their skills
  • On Professional Success
  • On the richness of their personal life

Fundamentally, when we live a life that respects and aligns with our own values, self-esteem increases, but it decreases every time our behaviour is contrary to the values we have set ourselves.

​A way to explain Low Self-esteem is that much of how we value ourselves is viewed through the opinions of others and not in regards to a sincere and positive regard or belief in ourselves. An individual with low self-esteem will feel like they have to prove themselves to others all the time; to win their approval and recognition. However, if those opinions of others are not positive in nature, it will undoubtedly have a very negative impact on a person self-esteem; thus quite likely lowering their self-esteem.

Obtaining high self-esteem means that it is about liking yourself and feeling good about yourself. It means that a when a person obtains a sense of achievement, they believe that they have acquired it for themselves, and because it is something they believe they want to do and not due to needing the recognition of someone else.

High self-esteem is a prerequisite for trusting and acting on one’s own intuition, so that one can continue to develop their creativity, building an identity for themselves. When a person’s self-esteem is high you don’t have to win at all costs; you can be flexible when you need to be. You are your own person. You can behave spontanaiety and don’t have to constantly measure yourself against other people’s standards. You take responsibility for fulfilling your own needs.

Most importantly a child can begin to trust, build and accept their own thoughts and feelings, and clearly recognise and rely on when they are happy, angry, fearly and sad, and you feel safe enough to express your feelings appropriately because they are in line with your OWN values and not based on someone elses that you don’t really own in your mind.

The Benefits of High Self-Esteem Long-term

Self-esteem gives your child a positive attitude and a sense of optimism. It reduces anxiety, encourages positive decision-making, and promotes healthful and smart conflict resolution. These traits benefit children as they mature into adults, helping them excel in the classroom, in personal relationships and in their career. As a parent, you can encourage higher self-esteem in your child, preparing him for a happy, successful life. Researh has also shown that if one has high self-esteem, people are more likely to have full and happy relationships and overall, a person is more usually more effective and productive in the classroom and in the work place​

Risks of Low Self-Esteem

Unfortunately, long term risks of low self-esteem often can lead a child into depression and at times experience anxiety. Addressing these issues sooner rather than later is vitally important to them leading a healthy and confident life.

TIPS TO BUILD YOUR CHILD’S/ADOLESCENTS SELF-ESTEEM

  • Most of all, young people need to be believed in by the people around them. Fundamentally, young people need to have people around them that believe in them and speak positively to them – they need to be noticed for the positive things they do. Children are not just born with high self-esteem – it can simply be build up or torn down. If children are spoken to critically and negatively, they are likely build a portrait of them that is very damaging to their self-esteem.
  • Listening to your children/teenagers – really hear what they have to say. That way you will build and establish a trusting parent-child relationship from the very beginning. Being responsive to your child’s needs provides them with evidence that they are worthy of your time, attention and love. For example, try to respond to the underlying meaning of what they are saying rather than responding to just the content – most of the time, what they want you to hear is not what they are actually saying but what they are not saying. For example, “I need you to love me”, “I need you to support me”.
  • ​Spend ‘quality time’ with them – time that involves something that they are invested in and interested in to spend time with you – then spend time with them sharing something of yourself and what you like to do.
  • ​Display a positive attitude about yourself and others. Become the person you want them to become – the role model that respects yourself and speaks positively about yourself in all facets of your life; your weight, the way you look and carry yourself in front of others.
  • Hug them every now and again – show them some affection not just in your hugs, but in your voice and in your eyes – indicating to them you understand them and validate the difficult experiences they are having.
  • Help your child set goals and help them identify ways themselves to achieve them. Be supportive when they fail and focus on the ‘getting up’ rather than the ‘falling down’. Use the ‘falling down’ as an opportunity to learn from their mistakes so that they can build confidence in themselves to try again
  • Encourage them to try something new and that to explore the world is a good thing. Trying new things (reasonably) enables them to build the confidence in themselves that they can accomplish and overcome new challenges. Encourage them to see that if they fail, it is a learning process about their strengths and weakness and what they can build upon, not that they are a failure and should never have tried it in the first place.
  • Talk to them about trusing their inner wisdom – even if you can see the writing on the wall… allow them to have a little fall – learning from experiences can speak louder than words sometimes, and that building a sense of achievement through getting up and trying again is a very important concept in life to learn: that in fact everyone fails at one time or another.
  • Focus on their best qualities and remind them that every person has unique strengths and weaknesses.
  • Speak positively to the things they are doing well and achieve in.
  • Create a sense of belonging – that the family/friends they have are a unique and integral part of who they are, and that they deserve to be loved and supported even when they fail, and not only when they succeed.

DREAMING
Encourage your child or teenager to dream – to think bigger about their dreams and to have the faith to extend themselves. With speaking your support to not only their dreams but to their ability to fulfill their dream will empower them to take those steps to move forward.

GOALS
An important part of building a child’s/teenagers self-esteem is to teach or help your child to set their own goals. Encourage your teenager to set smaller achievable measurable goals that build up toward their final goal – they therefore need to be SMART because they are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable

Realistic, and have a time frame for them

Author: Michelle Barratt

School Bullying

Children or Adolescents being bullied can be detrimental to a child’s sense of self worth, leaving them with low levels of self-esteem as well as interfering with the development of their identity through adolescence.

Early detection of bullying is crucial!

Bullying is a form of aggression where victim is left feeling helpless and vulnerable. Mostly the exchange is about the bully using aggression and control to maintain a position of power. Fundamentally the language or physical behaviour used is demeaning and disrespectful. Over time the power dynamics and inequality in the relationship become stronger, leaving the victim feeling hurt, abused and completely disarmed. Bullying takes many forms. There are many overt and covert behaviours that constitute bullying: physical, psychological, verbal, social exclusion, hitting, kicking, punching, pushing/shoving, stealing, insults, name-calling, threats, comments about how someone looks or talks, comments about someone’s ethnicity (culture, colour or religion), gossiping, rumours, ignoring, not including someone in group activities, damaging belongings (clothes, toys, etc).​

How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

Here are ten signs which may indicate your child is being bullied:

  • Your child may seem to shut down: becoming quieter, more withdrawn and tending to want to keep to themselves.
  • You may notice that your child becomes quick to anger, or more aggressive.
  • Your child may become more teary and more sensitive about things they never used to feel sensitive about.
  • Your child may not tolerate the same things they were usually able to tolerate or do.
  • Loss of interest in things that they used to like doing.
  • Complaints of a sore tummy, feeling sick, or saying they have headaches.
  • Loss of interest in playing with their friends, doing their homework and going to school.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Your child may start having nightmares or bed-wetting, or is not sleeping well.
  • School refusal.

Ten Tips to Help Your Child Beat the Bullies

  • Ensure that your children know about what being bullied means, and what it looks like.
  • Communication, communication, communication! Encourage your child to talk to you every day not just about the positive things that happen in their lives, but also about the negatives and things that are hurting them.
  • Make sure your child understands that being bullied does not mean there is anything wrong with them, and that there is no shame in accessing help and support straight away.
  • Being bullied is not only inappropriate behaviour but totally unacceptable. Fundamentally being bullied is NOT a normal part of growing up and should not be ignored.
  • Help children understand that more often than not – being bullied usually doesn’t just go away, but often gets worse with time, making early intervention critical.
  • Bullies should be dealt with face to face and not through any means of social media.
  • Teach your child to use assertive communication, perhaps through role playing how they can stand up to their bullies.
  • Help your child to work out who they can depend on to support them, and how to encourage those children to stand up for them. It can help children if they have a few sentences already practiced that they can use to help break the ice when they are first standing up to or facing their bullies.
  • Supervise children as much as possible when they are on the computer or when they are using any type of media. If at all possible, keep the computer in a public space in the home and do not allow young children or younger adolescents to have mobiles overnight in their rooms.
  • Parents and other adults in the home need to be good role models when discussing an issue in the home. Role modelling respectful, assertive and clear communication is a great way to help your child learn appropriate communication when problem-solving.

Author: Michelle Barratt

CHILDHOOD ANXIETY

Michelle Barratt Psychology is a Toowong and Redland Bay / Wynnum – Manly Clinical Psychology Practice, and aims to provide treatment for Child Anxiety in Brisbane at the highest standard. The practice values implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support their clients feel safe, heard and understood, but also strives to offer effective treatment that will empower clients to learn new skills to support them in the future. If you are unsure about what you are dealing with, please don’t hesitate to contact us to support you through the next step of either working out what to do or how to proceed with an appointment.

The following information on Childhood Anxiety will give you some insight to what Anxiety is and how it presents.

Michelle Barratt Psychology aims to provide treatment for anxiety at the highest standard; implementing support and treatment that not only endeavours to support a person feel heard and understood, but a treatment plan that empowers their clients to reverse and work through the causal factors of anxiety or depression in order that they can implement preventative strategies to help protect them in the future. We aim to support all children, all adolescents, and all adults, couples and family’s work through their depression to succeed in their ultimate wellbeing.

Child Psychologists can support a child or adolescents anxiety through therapy by teaching them to be aware of their feelings and how to work through them. Many children and adolescence who experience anxiety express it to feel very uncomfortable for them and end up often inhibiting those parts of their life that are fundamental for them to engage in to grow their self-esteem.

Child Anxiety

A child having developed anxiety can be due to many different reasons. However, often anxiety arises from feeling threatened, experiencing or having experienced conflict, suddenly feeling unsure in their environment due to recent changes in their life (changes at school, attending a new school, moving home, becoming suddenly unwell, new family and or parenting or family arrangements, being bullied, etc), feeling fearful, feeling helpless, having basic needs being unmet, having threatening health issues, being convinced of having individual differences from others, and psychological reactions to a perceived/imagined threats or abuse (verbal, physical, sexual and emotional); experiencing domestic violence in the home.

​Symptoms of Anxiety

​An overall sense of negative behaviour ensues, namely – apprehension, feelings of anxiousness, excessive worry, whining, crying, increased negative behaviour, irritability, tantrums, acting disagreeably, increased fighting or withdrawal from friends and family, insomnia, difficulty of sleeping through the night, not eating well/uncharacteristically. Physical symptoms such as stomach aches, restlessness, fatigue, problems with concentration, impaired memory, muscle tension, and/or insomnia, shaking hands/voice, increased breathing or the feeling of wanting to panic, increased heart rate, and increased breathing, and a mind that just does not seem to rest.​

The Impact of Anxiety

More often than not, anxiety can limit the enriched experiences we wish for our children/adolescents to have in order that through these experiences, children can learn and grow openly and with confidence.​

Anxiety can impact a child’s ability to make friends, and impair their ability to feel heard and understood as very important people, which can in turn limit their opportunity to learn social skills in which to maintain friends. All parents want their children to grow up healthy, confident, strong and happy within themselves, and this is where psychological therapy can provide and facilitate support, tools and skills to manage anxiety.

Most importantly exposing children to a multitude of environments and experiences and allowing them to develop a strong sense of belief in their own ability and capacity enhances their self-esteem, self-worth and confidence to do bigger and greater things – fundamentally it is highly recommended that parents support their children to address how to manage anxiety so that it does not negatively impact their emotional and psychological growth/maturity.

Psychological interventions

Understanding the development and source of a child’s/adolescents anxiety, and recognizing its triggers can go a long way to supporting a child or adolescent feel heard, understood, validated and empathized with. Often the importance of these virtues can be the traction a child/adolescent needs to find the courage to manage their anxiety and move forward in managing their how they feel when they become distressed and experience a range of negative thoughts.

Other psychological intervention tools will include a multitude of interventions such as: play therapy, role-playing and imaginal/exposure therapy can go a long way into helping children and adolescents. With adults, all of the above as well as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) are effective ways of managing/supporting the alleviation of anxiety. It is therefore imperative that if you see any signs of anxiety that it is addressed as soon as possible as often coping mechanisms adopted by people to try and alleviate their symptoms actually increase symptoms of anxiety.

Different types of Anxiety

  • Anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition
  • Substance induced anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Hypochondriasis
  • Somatization Disorder

If you suspect you or your child has anxiety, please do not hesitate to visit your GP and discuss this with them, and if you need a Mental Health Plan, please obtain one from your GP and make an appointment with a professional as soon as possible.

Author: Michelle Barratt

CHILD DEPRESSION

There has been an incredible increase in the prevalence of child depression found in young children (aged 6-12 years of age). Although parents appear to be more astute in assessing emotional and behavioural changes in their children, please don’t ever hesitate to speak with a professional to seek more information or insight as to whether your child might be struggling with depression. It is of course normal for children to feel sad, angry, withdrawn, irritated or lack concentration due to being tired or just because they are having an off day. Children between these ages, and especially those that are younger are still learning what different emotions are, and what they mean for them. They are still learning how to emotionally regulate their emotions and work out exactly what it means for them to have them and why?

However, if your child shows persistent signs of the above (sad, angry, withdrawn, irritated or lack concentration) along with any other symptoms like:

  • Change in sleeping patterns – ‘struggling to fall asleep’ ‘waking up’ at night and not being able to fall back to sleep and struggling to wake up in the morning.
  • Crying for no reason, or just very weepy/teary.
  • Having nightmares, or persistent disturbed sleep.
  • Have a change in appetite; mainly pertaining to a reduced appetite.
  • Less ability to control emotions: e.g., increased levels of pessimism, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety.
  • Not wanting to go to school.
  • Teacher or parents/friends/family notice the child to withdraw socially or the other way round, wants to pick fights
  • Not completing their homework (unusual changes in behaviour; fore example ‘Lucy always brought home her homework, or would always want to complete her homework’).
  • Emotions experienced during the day are incredibly variable: for example, feeling better/responsive/engaging in the morning but increasingly unhappy as the day progresses.
  • Reduced capacity to engage in things the child used to find pleasure in.
  • Not looking forward to doing things anymore – even when exciting things are planned that used to get them excited.
  • When they withdraw from their hobbies, friends or not want to attend holidays or engage with the family.
  • Poor concentration and memory, and unwillingness to address homework requirements:
  • Reduced motivation: it doesn’t seem worth the effort like it did before to do anything – a real sense of ‘meaninglessness’ or any sign of ‘hopelessness’.
  • Lowered levels of energy and disengagement.
  • Any reports of self-harm or
  • Statements when angry, “I wish I wasn’t here anymore”.

Please note: that other than the last bullet point of “I wish I wasn’t here anymore”, it’s ok for children to have bad days. Bear in mind that children these days are having to deal with increased levels of stress and are struggling with external stressors such as bullying and social media pressure like never before, so sometimes learning how to deal with these issues can be tough, but children are resilient and are often good at developing skills quickly on how to manage such confronting and uncomfortable issues. The danger comes when your child begins to feel helpless and begins to feel helpless in their ability to cope; this is when the symptoms mentioned above accumulate to more than just one or two and for extended periods of time.

If you are concerned as to whether your child is struggling with depression, please don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Email us your concern and one of us will be in contact with you to make an appointment, first with you as the parents, and then with the child.

Author: Michelle Barratt

cONDUCT dISORDER

Please feel free to read the following information on Conduct Disorder. If you feel your child is exhibiting any of the behavioural features below and you are at all concerned, please seek immediate Professional Psychological support and treatment for your child. Simply, the earlier it is treated, the better the outcome. Therefore, please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see Michelle Barratt (Brisbane Clinical Psychologist) at either Wynnum West or Toowong.

Make an appointment as soon as you possibly can, either by telephone, online or by email. See the tab ‘Appointments’ above for times available at either practice.

Conduct disorder (CD) represents a diagnosis that elicits behaviours that are overall more seriously aggressive and anti-social in nature, and more elevated in nature to that of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Additionally CD is in children that are more in the age-range from Middle Childhood to Adolescence.

Problem behaviours witnessed in children with this diagnosis and in serious need of support, are both overt and covert; and is distinguished by more violent behaviour that is seen in ODD: Children exhibit:

  • Defiance
  • Aggressiveness and destructiveness, i.e., the destruction of property
  • Anger and irritability;
  • Pervasive relationship dfficulties within the family, school and peer group; and
  • Difficulties with the ability to internalise social norms for example; lack of empathy for others is observable, and this is often indicated when children partake in:
  • Substance use/abuse, high-risk taking behaviours/impulsive behaviour,s promiscuity and other anti-social behaviours.

Any family living amongst these types of behaviours would be extremely difficult for them. More often than no, it is found that parents arrive in their first session expressing not only grave concern but feelings of high frustration and a massive sense of helplessness.

Additionally, the negative impact on the child themselves is visible, which is distressing for their parents. Furthermore, the parents can see that their child is clearly struggling to emotionally regulate themselves, and appear to not be able to absorb family and society norms expected of them. Unfortunately, it is not long before the influence of their child’s behaviour is not only affecting their immediate family, but also their peers, school community and the community itself; particularly because the behaviour they exhibit are considerably harmful.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Negative Behaviour

Managing children’s and adolescents difficult and negative behaviour can at the best times be very tough, but when things get out of control, it can be especially exhausting and difficult for most to cope. Worst of all, it can often leave parents and other members of the family feeling like there is no end to the situation and conflict, and it doesn’t take long for parent’s confusion to set in about how to manage very difficult behaviours.

When children exhibit negative behaviours, the children can sometimes act in ways that can sometimes appear bewildering, and parents are often left wondering where that behavior came from?? Even when parents try to address it, the children themselves find it hard to understand what it is they are doing wrong and worse still struggle to express how they are truly feeling, and thus negative patterns just don’t change.

Unfortunately, this is because the younger the child, the more difficult it is for them to express and articulate verbally exactly what is going on for them inside, so the only language they really have is through their behavior – referred to as nonverbal means of expression. This can come in many forms:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Rebellion,
  • Underachievement (especially in school),
  • Not wanting to get on with anyone at school
  • Delinquency
  • Fighting and or arguing with siblings
  • Unusual silliness
  • Excessive crying
  • Dawdling, or zoning out
  • Not listening and ignoring instructions,
  • Out of character shouting, screaming, and hitting other children, and
  • Other negative attention-seeking behavior, which is actually a way or means of children non-verbally trying to express negative emotions they don’t know how else to express.

What Now? – Well, all is not lost! Managing the behaviour and NOT blaming the child is the most important thing to do, but often when parents feel at a loss of what to do next, doing this can be extremely difficult!!

Child and Adolescent Psychology or Counselling can support and teach the child to express the negative feelings and emotions they are experiencing more effectively. If you are a parent and would like better understanding of how to manage and cope with difficult behaviours and negative emotions, please feel free to make and appointment for yourself and or child and we can discuss in the ‘treatment plan’ on how to go forward from here.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Oppositional Defiant Disorder - ODD

Characteristics of ODD

Unlike the challenging of authority figures that is more common in adolescence, ODD emerges earlier – usually before age 8 years.

ODD is characterised by the frequent occurrence of at least four of the following behaviours:

  • Losing temper
  • Often arguing with adults
  • Often actively defying or refusing to comply with the requests
  • or rules of adults
  • Often deliberately doing things that will annoy people
  • Often blaming others for his or her mistakes or behaviour
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Is often angry and resentful
  • Is often spiteful and vindictive

Please note that these behaviours need to exist for a number of months and the disturbance of their behaviours causes severe (clinically) significant problems (impairment) in social, academic, and occupational functioning.​

Criteria for ODD

For ODD contains both emotional (e.g. angry) and behavioural (e.g. argues) indicators. Unfortunately, there is some suggestion that both the emotional and behavioural symptoms of ODD contribute to the prediction of later disruptive/externalizing disorders. However the emotional symptoms of ODD may also contribute uniquely to the prediction of internalizing disorders (Stringaris & Goodman, 2009).

Other behaviours the child can exhibit as they get older may be that they have they have:

  • Fights
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Disobedient
  • Destructive
  • Impertinent
  • Uncooperative
  • Stealing
  • Lying

Many parents will experience behaviours listed above from time to time with their children as oppositional behaviour is a typical transient feature of certain developmental stages (e.g. preschool and adolescence) and can be exacerbated by unexpected change or stressors that present themselves for long periods of time.

Parents must not self-diagnose their children and understand that a clinical assessment is required to screen for other causes of the behaviours including anxiety, depression, attention deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and communication disorders.

Research for ODD shows

Research has indicated that some causes of ODD are..

Causes of ODD are unclear but there are some familial patterns as it is more common in families where at least one parent has a history of depression, anxiety, ODD, conduct disorder, ADHD, personality disorders or a substance use disorder. It is more common in families where there are problems in the relationship between parents. Some studies suggest that an infant’s temperament e.g. infants who were difficult to soothe, or highly reactive.

Often parents one day just don’t understand where the behaviour of their child is coming from – this is because the onset of this behaviour can be gradual and often symptoms appear at home before spreading to the school and other settings.

Many parents attend psychological support when the behaviour begins to spread to other domains of their child’s life. However, more often than not the severity of the behaviour is so negative that the managing the symptoms and the response of the parents have become one vicious cycle whereby the defiance, arguing and anger of the child incites similar emotions in their caregivers robbing both parties of the tools they need to resolve the difficulties. Sometimes it remains unclear as to the reason for the onset of ODD and in treatment it is less useful to focus on finding the source of the problem rather than focusing on the solutions.

Treatment for ODD

Treatment
Families are key to treatment success in ODD. Therapy can support parents struggling to manage a child with ODD by discussing the parent’s current approach to parenting and comparing with methods and strategies that have an evidence base for creating change in ODD. Depending on the strengths of each family system an approach can be co-created between therapist, parents and child to ensure the emotional needs of the child can be met within a framework of firm but kind limits and routines that promote predictability, safety and security.​

Oppositional Defiant Disorder can be experienced in early childhood with the biggest issues relating to disruptive behaviours. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) behaviour is normally characterized by a recurrent pattern of negativistic, hostile, defiant, disruptive, disobedient and hostile behaviour towards authority figures that are clearly outside the normal range of behaviour for a child of the same age in the same sociocultural context and which does not include the more serious violations of the rights of others associated with conduct disorder.

Persistence of behaviours:

The negative behaviour normally persists for at least 6 months.

Children and adolescents are often stubborn, do not comply with requests or directions, and in a variety of ways exhibit oppositional behaviour. However, when the negative behaviour appears to be beyond that of norm of what society/parents/peers and teachers would expect, and persist for many months at a time, most clinicians hear complaints that often describe

  • Preschool aged children to hit, kick, or bite other children
  • From early school years through middle school children may engage in various forms of aggression and bullying and authority non-compliance.
  • Adolescents can engage in dangerous, impulsive, non-compliant behaviours that not only endanger themselves but others.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Setting Boundaries for your teenager

I would like to start with a story by psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud. This story illustrates the importance of preparing your child for the future through the use of boundary setting. Dr Cloud was at his friend Alison’s house when he overheard her in her 14-year-old son Cameron’s bedroom. Walking into the bedroom, Dr. Cloud asked Alison what she was doing.

Alison replied “I’m cleaning up Cameron’s room. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“You are what?” Dr. Cloud replied.

“I told you. I’m cleaning up his room. Why are you looking at me like that?” she replied.

“I just feel sorry for Cameron’s future wife” said Dr. Cloud.

​After a few moments Alison looked at Dr. Cloud and said “I’ve never thought about it that way.” Nor have most of us.

Dr. Cloud went on to explain that we often parent in the present without thinking about the future. But parenting has to do with more than the present, is also involves preparing your child for the future, preparing them to be responsible adults. Alison loved helping Cameron but, in many ways, her helping was not “helping” Cameron. He had developed a pattern in which he felt entitled to everyone else’s help. When Alison looked into the future and saw a time when Cameron would be leaving responsibilities for others to do, she became concerned and changed how she interacted with him to help him develop a sense of responsibility and to help him think about how his behaviours affected others.

The teenage years are a time of significant growth, independence and identity development. Having firm boundaries helps your teenager to find a reasonable and balanced approach to growing up, teaches them that they have responsibilities and that their actions have consequences. Boundaries prepare them for the real world where they can’t yell at someone for doing something they don’t like, not turn up to work or not pay a bill without facing repercussions.

When setting boundaries with your teenagers here are a few things to consider:

  • Boundaries are clear and reasonable: Having clearly stated and agreed boundaries means your teenager understands what the expectations are and the consequences of breaking the boundaries. Boundaries should acknowledge and respect your teenager’s age, circumstances and capacity to be responsible. For example, it would be expected that a 13-year-old would have different boundaries to a 16-year-old.
  • Negotiation: Allow for negotiation when setting boundaries. If you set boundaries too strictly, your teenager may be less likely to adhere to them. Let your teenager make their case and acknowledge any reasonable points they bring up by making the relevant adjustments. Providing your teenager with options within the boundaries can also help them to feel part of the decision-making process.
  • Respect and empathy: Teenagers learn by example. If you want them to respect you and your boundaries, you must model respect in your interactions with them. Be willing to listen to them and try to put yourself in their shoes. Even if you think your teenager is being dramatic because she can’t find the right outfit. Try to remember how important things like friends, appearance and social media are to your teenager and be empathetic towards their situation.
  • Be firm and consistent: Pushing boundaries is normal for teenagers. It is your role as parents to set firm boundaries and be clear on what is okay and what is not okay. Inconsistent or passive parenting sends the message to your teenager that if they keep pushing the boundaries they can get what they want. In the long term it is much better to have a temporarily disappointed teenager than one that doesn’t respect you.
  • Be patient: It can be easy to get caught up in your teenager’s emotions and experiences but do not give them the power to control your emotions and reactions. If you find yourself feeling disappointed or frustrated, walk away, take some time out and relax. This models good emotional regulation.
  • Natural consequences: Allow your teenager to face the natural consequences of their actions. For example, if your teenager does the wrong thing at school the natural consequences may be that they get a detention and miss out on playing with their friends at lunch. Allowing your teenager the opportunity to figure out how to resolve their own issues, gives them the chance to learn a lessons about responsibility.
  • Evolving boundaries: As your teenager grows, the boundaries you have put in place will need to change to reflect their maturity. If they start to demonstrate increased levels of responsibility and trustworthiness, reinforce their behaviour by giving them more freedom where appropriate. If your teenager exhibits untrustworthy behaviour you may also need to shift the boundaries to be more restrictive.
  • Enforce consequences: Boundaries are meaningless unless there are consequences for violating them. These consequences need to be proportionate and relevant to the type and degree of violation. If the response or punishment is too harsh your teenager may be resentful or rebel. If the response is insignificant the boundary may become pointless and be ignored. Discuss with your teenager what the consequences will be when setting the boundary and only make consequences that you will follow through with.

​Boundary setting is hard work. It takes a lot of effort to formulate, communicate and implement a plan to help your teenager grow and mature into a responsible adult. It is also an ongoing process so be prepared to make your own mistakes. Setting boundaries with consequences will give your teenager a clear understanding of what is expected and will help you to maintain discipline without destroying your relationship.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Surviving Your Parents

I would like to start with a story by psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud. This story illustrates the importance of preparing your child for the future through the use of boundary setting. Dr Cloud was at his friend Alison’s house when he overheard her in her 14-year-old son Cameron’s bedroom. Walking into the bedroom, Dr. Cloud asked Alison what she was doing.

Alison replied “I’m cleaning up Cameron’s room. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“You are what?” Dr. Cloud replied.

“I told you. I’m cleaning up his room. Why are you looking at me like that?” she replied.

“I just feel sorry for Cameron’s future wife” said Dr. Cloud.

​After a few moments Alison looked at Dr. Cloud and said “I’ve never thought about it that way.” Nor have most of us.

Dr. Cloud went on to explain that we often parent in the present without thinking about the future. But parenting has to do with more than the present, is also involves preparing your child for the future, preparing them to be responsible adults. Alison loved helping Cameron but, in many ways, her helping was not “helping” Cameron. He had developed a pattern in which he felt entitled to everyone else’s help. When Alison looked into the future and saw a time when Cameron would be leaving responsibilities for others to do, she became concerned and changed how she interacted with him to help him develop a sense of responsibility and to help him think about how his behaviours affected others.

The teenage years are a time of significant growth, independence and identity development. Having firm boundaries helps your teenager to find a reasonable and balanced approach to growing up, teaches them that they have responsibilities and that their actions have consequences. Boundaries prepare them for the real world where they can’t yell at someone for doing something they don’t like, not turn up to work or not pay a bill without facing repercussions.

When setting boundaries with your teenagers here are a few things to consider:

  • Boundaries are clear and reasonable: Having clearly stated and agreed boundaries means your teenager understands what the expectations are and the consequences of breaking the boundaries. Boundaries should acknowledge and respect your teenager’s age, circumstances and capacity to be responsible. For example, it would be expected that a 13-year-old would have different boundaries to a 16-year-old.
  • Negotiation: Allow for negotiation when setting boundaries. If you set boundaries too strictly, your teenager may be less likely to adhere to them. Let your teenager make their case and acknowledge any reasonable points they bring up by making the relevant adjustments. Providing your teenager with options within the boundaries can also help them to feel part of the decision-making process.
  • Respect and empathy: Teenagers learn by example. If you want them to respect you and your boundaries, you must model respect in your interactions with them. Be willing to listen to them and try to put yourself in their shoes. Even if you think your teenager is being dramatic because she can’t find the right outfit. Try to remember how important things like friends, appearance and social media are to your teenager and be empathetic towards their situation.
  • Be firm and consistent: Pushing boundaries is normal for teenagers. It is your role as parents to set firm boundaries and be clear on what is okay and what is not okay. Inconsistent or passive parenting sends the message to your teenager that if they keep pushing the boundaries they can get what they want. In the long term it is much better to have a temporarily disappointed teenager than one that doesn’t respect you.
  • Be patient: It can be easy to get caught up in your teenager’s emotions and experiences but do not give them the power to control your emotions and reactions. If you find yourself feeling disappointed or frustrated, walk away, take some time out and relax. This models good emotional regulation.
  • Natural consequences: Allow your teenager to face the natural consequences of their actions. For example, if your teenager does the wrong thing at school the natural consequences may be that they get a detention and miss out on playing with their friends at lunch. Allowing your teenager the opportunity to figure out how to resolve their own issues, gives them the chance to learn a lessons about responsibility.
  • Evolving boundaries: As your teenager grows, the boundaries you have put in place will need to change to reflect their maturity. If they start to demonstrate increased levels of responsibility and trustworthiness, reinforce their behaviour by giving them more freedom where appropriate. If your teenager exhibits untrustworthy behaviour you may also need to shift the boundaries to be more restrictive.
  • Enforce consequences: Boundaries are meaningless unless there are consequences for violating them. These consequences need to be proportionate and relevant to the type and degree of violation. If the response or punishment is too harsh your teenager may be resentful or rebel. If the response is insignificant the boundary may become pointless and be ignored. Discuss with your teenager what the consequences will be when setting the boundary and only make consequences that you will follow through with.

​Boundary setting is hard work. It takes a lot of effort to formulate, communicate and implement a plan to help your teenager grow and mature into a responsible adult. It is also an ongoing process so be prepared to make your own mistakes. Setting boundaries with consequences will give your teenager a clear understanding of what is expected and will help you to maintain discipline without destroying your relationship.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Surviving Your Teenager

How Does It Feel?

It might feel like your teenager has become a different person – that at times you might look at what once felt like your gorgeous child and now you look at them and ask ‘Who Are You?’

Those few moments might be painful and somewhat bewildering for some parents. For the most part teenagers are really going through a developmental process I refer to as the ‘individualized process’ which is sometimes referred to as the ‘push-pull’ analogy – sometimes they love you and sometimes they really dislike you.

Really teenagers are being squeezed through a process that will ‘hopefully’ help them develop the person they want to be in this world & sometimes it can be very different to what you as their parent might want or wish for them to be. In fact going through this process with them might feel like you are constantly stepping through a minefield.

Don’t be afraid of what your teenager can be capable of – if you are uncertain, watch the few videos below that might perhaps support you and your teenager that when things are tough, all is not lost – that when dependent on the right attitude and the right outlook of life… anything is possible. However, we have to keep in mind that nothing is impossible, but nothing comes without a commitment to change.

Man with no arms and legs-Amazing Story

Parenting Support

If you feel like you are lost for words at times, and that the behavior of your child is just so foreign to you, and you just don’t know what to say or do next, then I would suggest it is time you seek some parenting support.

  • You can either book an appointment directly with a psychologist and they will likely guide you toward the next best step for your therapy or if you experiencing high levels of anxiety or any symptoms of depression, then
  • Make an appointment with your GP and speak with them about how you have been feeling and ask for their recommendation on who you could see. If you do go to see your GP and believe you will need to see your psychologist for a period of time, remember to ask about a Mental Health Plan.

Different Parents Make The World Go Round

Remember there are many types of parents and families these days so

  • Biological/Nuclear Family’s – are those that have Father, Mum and Children or perhaps Adopted Children
  • Step Family – Are those families whose parents have experienced a divorce and have joined together their children (Father has had three of his own and Mother has had two of her own=Step Family)
  • Blended Family – Are those families who might have children of their own from a previous marriage, however Mum and Dad have then decided to have a child of their own too in their present marriage.

Different families bring different challenges:

For example:

  • In all families Mum and Dad might parent differently – so who gets to decide which rules, expectations or boundaries are set?
  • All families struggle with schedules and routines, but in step or blended families, amalgamating previous schedules and rules into one family can mean there is an adjustment period – thus balancing out everyone’s calendars and routines can be a real challenge. For example in a blended family, if the father of the biological children from the previous marriage normally wants to provide his child with a 16 year old party, what happens about inviting his to be 16 year old child’s half-brother/sister to their party? .. and they are categorically stipulating that they have to come or else??!!! It gets complicated at the best of times right?
  • In addition to all the complications likened to the above, we have some of the following??

WHAT MY TEENAGER CAN BE LIKE??

  • Your teenager spends most of their time in their room and does not seem to converse or spend much time with the family any more
  • When you speak with them they are more rude than respectful and
  • It seems like you just don’t understand anything anymore, or that just you don’t know anything
  • It seems that you can never get anything right even when you think you are communicating with your child
  • It doesn’t take much for them to storm off in anger and frustration no matter how hard you try to meet with them half way
  • They refuse to do their chores
  • They stay up all hours of the night and spend many hours in bed
  • None of the boundaries you had are adhered to any more and more often than not
  • Communication is more about shouting or perhaps ‘nothing at all’ and that conflict between the children or between you and them seems to be more than the norm these days
  • There is little participation with other members of the family
  • Or that they seem to take advantage of every opportunity they can get and that
  • No matter how much you try to trust them, they seem to defy you or are found to be lying or abusing the trust they did have

Your teenager doesn’t have to be exhibiting all of the above behaviours to be acting like a typical teenager, but at times it just seems so hard for the ‘parent’ to feel like they can survive this time with their child. Teenagers only need to behave in some of the ways mentioned above to feel like it’s going to be impossible to get through..

Most importantly in your child’s life are that they somehow through some means feel supported and connected to you and much of enabling them to feel that way is through a myriad of means…..

Survival Parenting Tips

It is very important to try and maintain some sense of communication with our children – some tips

Just One – Communication …

  • Talk to your children, but don’t give them the responsibility for making the final decision. Explain to them that some things are adult decisions, but express to them that you would like to start giving them some responsibility for things they want to manage, but that they have to earn your trust to do so.
  • Help them understand that with responsibility comes commitment to the things they decide to do and that they shouldn’t make these decisions impulsively. Entice them to think about how they are going to stay committed to the things they make decisions about – practically, emotionally and mentally
  • Have a regular date with your child where that time belongs to the two of you, so that the opportunity to open up and explore things going on in their lives is there.
  • Ensure your children understand that even though they are growing up, there are boundaries around behavior and routine and that this to help instill, trust respect, honour and understanding of one another in the home.
  • When communicating with your child, don’t attribute every problem to what happened in the past – try to stay focused on the issue at hand now and go through with them how to problem-solve for the issue now and any possible that might occur in the future.
  • Only review the past in a way that highlights to them that perhaps there might be a pattern of some sort and if what’s occurring is not positive or supportive and not going towards what they want to do or would like to happen – what could they change then?

This type of collaborative process in your communication style with your teenager will grow and develop as they get older … it will most definitely be a developing process … so take your time to build trust and develop boundaries of respect and appreciation of what each of you brings into the relationships within the family.

This is most certainly just the beginning, so if you would like to engage further with how to ‘Survive Your Teenager’ please book an appointment with Michelle Barratt.

For your information, Michelle Barratt’s main priority to her clients as a psychologist is to offer a therapeutic environment where psychological sessions are based on a foundation of confidentiality, trust, and empathy. Fundamentally, it’s about working with where the client is at – mind, body and soul. She believes that this foundation is fundamental to creating a therapeutic alliance and that it is this type of environment that will help provide her clients with the best chance of understanding their outcomes and reaching their goals. In addition, Michelle believes that the session is entirely about respecting the client’s perspective, developing awareness and supporting their experience on their journey is the key to change.

Overall, when an individual is suffering mental health, or trauma, it can often leave a person feeling a range of emotions; some of these might be self-blame, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and low levels of self-esteem. These types of emotions are very powerful and will more often than not obscure how we see ourselves, and the world.

Author: Michelle Barratt

Toddler Tantrums

When your child has a temper tantrum, it can be difficult to handle at the best of times. But when you are trying to do your weekly grocery shop, and your ‘dear’ child decides to ‘lose it’, over what seems to be, on the surface, your refusal to buy him a toy truck it is disconcerting at the best of times.

Dealing with the fall-out of setting boundaries, and saying “No!” to your child can be even more challenging, especially when all your efforts to put a stop to the tantrum, seem only to be escalating it.

At this point – and consequently at the stage of ‘no want of trying’ your child has resorted to laying on the floor, kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs and you possibly most likely be left feeling at a loss at what to do next – and all the while people are most likely staring on.

For most parents in this situation, the primary goal is to calm the child down so that you can get on with what you have planned for the day, and to do so in a way that avoids stares, tuts, and shaking of heads from onlookers – thus temper tantrums simply lead to feeling completely embarrassed.

What It Can Look Like and What it Can Feel Like – As a Parent

Temper tantrums in public can bring up those uncomfortable feelings of shame, failure and inadequacy. Usually arising from your own ‘stinking thinking’ about being a “bad parent”. For example, your child’s temper tantrum can trigger worries that you are being judged negatively by those that insist on staring on. Consequently, you may start to think that others are thinking “Oh my gosh! What a terrible mother, why can’t she shut her child up?”, “That kid is out of control”, “What is she doing?” Or “A grown women cannot even control her own child”, or “What a spoilt brat”. Or worse onlookers coming over and intervening, telling you to “Control your child”, who incidentally at this point is lashing around on the supermarket aisle floor like he’s been temporarily possessed by something you cannot even describe. However it must be noted, that most of the time, onlookers, especially those who have their own children, are more likely to sympathize or empathize with you, rather than judge you.

At this point, when you have tried to unsuccessfully calm your child down, only it continues to escalate, you are faced with a dilemma….

Do you:

  • Relent (surrender), thus your resort to buying the truck, to silence your child. Give him what he ‘wants’. This may, in the short-term be effective, but in the long-term will negatively reinforce your child’s behaviour. That is, your child learns ‘When things don’t go my own way. I throw a tantrum. Mummy can’t handle me, so I get what I want”.
  • Punish (Fight)…attempt to regain control by shouting at your child. Telling him to “Get up”. Threat to or actually smack your child.
  • Abandon shopping mission (Flight)…. Drag your child off the floor, ‘frog march’ him back to the car and flee home. In and instant, your child has won. He got out of doing the boring task of grocery shopping (again negative reinforcement), or
  • Freeze, do nothing as it feels like you are rooted to the spot.

These effective responses are a result of our innate pre-historic survival mechanism (known as the Fight, Flight (flee) or Freeze) responses when our ancestors had no houses or shelter to protect them. When we feel threatened, an automatic response is triggered, and our best chance of survival is to Fight, or Flee or Freeze or surrender.

In these instances, most of these innate automatic responses are ineffective. Unfortunately, at these times, we are less able to attune to our child, because as well as within our child, many emotions have arisen within us. Consequently, we are probably not thinking clearly – especially in regards to what our child ultimately ‘needs’ and, or are we able to identify what underlying, unfilled need is causing the problematic behaviour/ temper tantrum in the first place.

Unlike many things we receive these days that come with a manual for guidance, our children do not – Rather they are the manual. We have to learn how to read them: Identify their needs (for food, safety, boundary setting, nurturance, support, to be delighted in, help to organize their feelings) and fulfill those needs.

What a child doesn’t need in these moments is a parent who is too weak and gives in, indulges wants rather than needs and doesn’t set boundaries. Nor a parent who is too mean, and is punishes or dismisses their feelings or needs.

During temper tantrums – a child needs help to organize feelings. They need a parent or caregiver who can take charge by being Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kinder (not mean or weak). To be these things to your child, you need to be in control of your own emotions and thinking – otherwise things are really likely to get out of control and before you know it, you will look like your child having a tantrum.

If you are experiencing similar issues with your child or are having trouble controlling your own emotions, or trouble working out what the underlying needs are beneath the tantrums and problematic behaviours, it would be strongly recommended you consider speaking to a psychologist for ways in which to support you control and manage your emotions. Psychological therapy, to support you manage temper tantrums have proven to be extremely helpful in enjoying your child again and under goes a long way to understanding what’s underneath the negative behaviours they are exhibiting.

Fundamentally, psychological support and or counselling will help you to be with your child in their tantrum, and to choose to sooth them by helping them to organize their feelings. Therefore, you and the Psychologist may be able to work together to gain a better understanding of what could be causing the tantrums, and develop more effective ways of handling them.

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