How to understand the needs of your children

Children find it difficult to express their needs and feelings. Younger children find it tough to communicate through words as their speech and thought-processes are not fully developed. Older children do not communicate their needs when they feel scared, unaccepted and judged. As parents, we need to create an atmosphere of acceptance, without any judgments, at home. This is possible only if we include our children in decision-making processes at home and give them the freedom of expression.

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Sometimes, in spite of all our efforts, children tend to bottle up their desires and emotions. However, even in those situations, children give away many cues and it is our duty to decipher these clues and understand the needs of our children. Let us see some of these cues and what they could mean:

1) Persistent crying

Babies cry for hunger, thirst and sleep but as they grow, the episodes of crying reduce. Younger children cry whenever they want attention. Some amount of crying can be attributed to sibling rivalry too. However, if your child cries persistently, the problem may be deeper than you can perceive. Poor health, physical or sexual abuse, bullying, sudden changes in the environment, divorce of parents, fear of monsters/thieves, etc. could also be factors that could depress your child.

2) Not wanting to go to school/classes

Some amount of separation anxiety is usual in pre-primary toddlers. Speaking about school positively, making sure you reach on time to pick them up from school and reassuring them that you will be waiting for them when they get back from school can ease their anxieties to a large extent. However, if your toddler has tremendous anxiety about school or if your older child suddenly develops an aversion to attending school, you need to investigate the probable reasons for the same. Usually, a bullying classmate, a fight with a good friend or a lack of friends at school could be the issue. Sometimes, a harsh teacher or academic pressure could also make children hate school.

3) Poor academic performance

Poor academic performance of children can be depressing and we tend to show our anger and frustration at those times. It would be better if we can explore the reasons behind it instead of exploding about it. If this is an unusual occurrence, find out whether your child requires extra help in any of the subjects or topics. Help your child plan his day, time and activities so that homework and studies do not get affected. In case, your child is repeatedly performing poorly in school, check whether your child has any learning disabilities. Calling in an expert can solve academic issues easily and comfortably.

4) Disobedience/ Testing your patience

A child usually tests his parent’s patience in three situations – (1) when he is undergoing some change, (2) when he is scared and (3) when he wants attention. Show empathy and support to your child whenever there are changes in his life. Reassure your child when he is frightened. A child who is ignored will crave for attention. Even negative attention, in the form of a slap or a scolding, would be alright to them. So, instead of doing that, provide a disobeying naughty child with lot of positive attention. This can be in the form of hugs, kisses or playing a game with them. When you do this consistently, you can see the behavioral change in the child soon. No longer does he need to misbehave to catch your attention.

Whenever you find it difficult to understand your child’s needs and emotions but you feel she is trying to convey something to you, have a personal talk with her. If that fails to help, enroll the support of a psychologist or child counsellor. These experts are not just for children with severe mental health problems but they can also help deal with everyday parenting challenges.

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