It is important for children with special needs to see a professional (Photo: iStock)

Nothing can prepare you when the doctor breaks the news that your beautiful child is having mental problems.

There is no guide or manual for parents to follow after receiving such devastating news. You will notice that their inability to control their emotions is affecting the entire family. What was once a good child is now unrecognisable.

Some of the early signs for younger children will include hyperactive behaviour. They talk a lot, they have difficulty playing quietly or remaining seated, they are fidgety and in some cases, they will run about or climb places that are deemed dangerous and inappropriate.

In short, they are on the go constantly. When it comes to older children, they may express a mental illness through disruptive behaviour and anger. Others may exhibit withdrawal, worry and emotional responses affecting their ability to learn, communicate or form relationships.

When you notice patterns that concern you, you must seek professional advice and help. Your doctor will suggest how you and your family can cope and approach the child in question by giving them the best support they need.

At this point, you must understand that your child is different and you never want to compare them with other children. Children with mental illness require a different style of parenting.

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By now you have probably realised that what worked for your other children probably won’t have the same effect on them. According to former child therapist Nicole Roder, if your child is not responding to traditional techniques that work with neurotypical children, she recommends finding other tools that can help.

For instance, if your son has explosive anger issues, help him calm down first before giving him his consequence. This way he will be able to understand and learn that what he did was wrong hence the punishment.

Therapy will help but it takes work and a lot of patience. Your therapist is not there to give you a magic pill that will fix your child. He or she is there to help you know how to deal with your child’s mental health problems. If your child is depressed or acting up chances are they are doing that at home or school and that is where you will have to address the problems.

Spend as much time as you can with them, listen to them, engage them, maintain easy routines they can follow like bedtime, do enjoyable activities together and encourage them. Children love positive feedback because it helps them know they have done well. That positive reinforcement when they do well increases their confidence and they will want to repeat that good behaviour.