A regular tantrum, or something to be concerned about?

If you and your ex have just gone through a separation, this period is bound to be one where you see a few emotional ups and downs in your child.

A whole rollercoaster of emotions can be expected, and this would not be unusual to witness. Quite the opposite, in fact. As with adults who experience a grieving process, children will go through a whole host of different emotional states, as they attempt to process the new knowledge that their parents aren’t going to be together anymore.

One of the most common emotional outbursts that parents can expect to see is anger. Full-blown temper tantrums, angry outbursts and a few door-slams thrown in for good measure – it’s all a part of the grieving process.

However, having said that, there is a limit to this kind of behaviour – where it begins to deviate from the realms of normal reactionary responses, into a behavioural pattern that is more concerning.

But, since the emotional outbursts that we see in children are so varied, how can you tell what you should class this particular fit of anger as? Don’t be too worried; if abnormal behaviours are starting to emerge, there are plenty of things that you can do to help your child get through this difficult process.

Make sure that you and your ex are both keeping tabs on your child’s emotional state, and are watching out for anything that you might class as particularly out of the ordinary. In this article, you’ll find a list of key things that you will want to watch out for, as your child works their way through their emotional response to your separation.

What to expect, and what could be classed as unusual behaviour

Typical angry and reactionary behaviours that can be expected from your child in the wake of a separation between their parents include anything from tantrums and acting out, to name-calling and shouting.

Just because this behaviour may be difficult to deal with, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t normal. While it may be difficult to cope with, the signs that your child may be experiencing a deeper, more fundamental internal struggle go beyond one of just how loudly they’re shouting.

Signs that are possibly a cause for greater concern (and might mean that you go on to seek external help, in the form of a GP or counsellor) could include:

  • Signs of aggression
  • Signs of depression
  • Your child having tantrums at an age that is significantly older than that which they are expected from a child (if your child is having regular tantrums and they are older than 8 years old, this is out of the ordinary)
  • Their behaviour presenting a danger to themself or others, or if they are behaving in a way that is out of control
  • Their behaviour preventing them from getting along with other children
  • Their behaviour causing a significant disruption to your home life as a family
  • Your child feeling like they cannot control their behaviour, which is affecting their self-esteem

The key thing that you and your ex can do is to monitor your child’s behaviour, and keep an eye out for any of these signs. Communicate with each other and get each other’s opinion on how you think that your child is coping.

It may also be a good idea for you to speak to your child’s teachers and possibly other family members who see your child on a regular basis, so that you can keep tabs on how your child is behaving away from home, too. You may want to record this behaviour (noting any changes or stand out incidents) in a diary. This way, you can track its progression and, if things were to get worse, it would provide a useful tool to share with a counsellor.

If you feel like your child is exhibiting these behaviours, below we have provided some advice to help you know what the best thing to do would be in this situation.

Help your child to work through their anger

If your child is struggling with their anger, it is vital that they are confident that they have your support during this challenging time.

Work with their child so that, as a team, you are helping them to understand why they are feeling this way and how they can try to fix it.

You could do this by treating the anger as an external force that you are both trying to tackle together. Help your child to learn to recognise the early signs of their anger, so that they can learn how to deal with situations, when they do arise, in an emotionally mature way.

From there, advise your child on how they can try and calm down. Sit together and work out some strategies that your child finds helps calm them down when they are angry. This could be counting to 10, calmly walking away and sitting in their room for a few minutes, or taking three deep breaths. Then, when you recognise that they are actively trying to keep a lid on their temper, give them praise and positive feedback.

Make sure that you keep communication open between you and your child. Ensure that they feel like they can speak to you openly and honestly, without fear of judgement or not being taken seriously. This way, you are supporting them and helping them to outlet their feelings in a way that is far more healthy.

Legitimize these feelings, and help your child to speak about them with you.

What to do if you are concerned

If you do feel like your child is beginning to show worrying signs, there is no need for you to wait until things become severe. If you are feeling concerned, even if more unusual behaviours are only just beginning to show themselves, be proactive.

Don’t be afraid to seek help.

External aid with your child’s behaviour could encompass a variety of different measures. These include:

  • Getting further advice from the school nurse
  • Speaking to your GP
  • Speaking to a child psychologist
  • Attend counselling sessions with your child
  • Getting in contact with organisation like the YoungMinds free parents’ helpline (0808 802 5544)

Remember, while we can’t say that this will be an easy time for your child, they will be ok and, by continuing to give them your love and support, you are making this process infinitely easier for them to cope with.

The best advice that we can give you would be to keep an eye on your child and how they are feeling. You and your ex know your child better than anyone, so you are the two people who are the most well-equipped to gauge whether or not your child is behaving uncharacteristically.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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