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Am I raising a psychopath?

 Make sure that consequences are enforced for misbehaviour (Photo: Shutterstock)

My son has some deep anger issues. I saw him almost kill a neighbour’s cat. Am I raising a psychopath? 

Find out the anger outbursts’ pattern. Has there been any change in the child’s life? Ideally it is best to manage children’s behaviour by making sure you spend time with the child so that you can bond, use rewards and praise to encourage desired behaviour.

Also setting limits and making sure that consequences are enforced for misbehaviour and loss of privileges and time out depending on the age of the child.

Temper tantrums are best managed by not giving in and ignoring the child until they calm down. Make sure the child follows a routine. Further, it would be good for the child to be evaluated because depression in children can present with anger.

My daughter lost her brother early last year and she has been different.  Quieter than usual. How do I help her?

Do not sweep the matter under the rug. Bring it up and answer the child’s question as per her age and intelligence. Find out first how she understands losing her brother. Make sure her daily routine is maintained. Children can express a lot through drawing and art therapy. Bond with her so that she can open up to you.

If she continues to look withdrawn and loses interest in things she enjoyed or her behaviour changes, seek a psychiatric evaluation to rule out depression.

My son has been watching the news and is very anxious about the Coronavirus pandemic. How do I reassure him we will be alright?

Model calmness, reduce the amount of information the child accesses, monitor the time they spend on screens and control it. Let him have a routine which ensures there is physical activity, leisure and sleep. Create time for the child to verbalise their fears and ask any questions they might have.

 Children can express a lot through drawing and art therapy (Photo: Shutterstock)

How can I ensure that my eight-year-old is open to me about everything so that by the time she is a teenager, we have a good open relationship?

Bond with the child before they are 12 years old because when they become teenagers they spend more time with their peers

When, in your experience, is the right age to have the sex talk with your child, boy or girl?

This should be done as soon as they can talk and are interacting with other children and getting information on television and the internet. But only give the information that can be understood at that particular age and use the vocabulary they can understand.

I have read conflicting reports on how a child seeing their parent’s nudity affects them. What is your professional opinion?

Teach children about private parts as early as they start understanding their anatomy. The danger of them watching their parents’ nudity is that they will think it is normal to show your nudity and they could easily be sexually abused thinking it is normal.

Whenever my 5-year-old draws, he draws pictures of people stabbed and other gory images. Should I be worried?

Talk to the child about the meaning of his picture. He could be going through something and he is processing it in his own way. Children can reveal a lot from drawing. Take an opportunity to discuss their interpretation of the drawing. If it bothers you, let them be assessed by a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

In my career as a lecturer, I see many unmotivated, lazy young adults.  How do I bring up my son, now 6, to be a self-motivated, high achiever?

Spend time with the child, model and teach them persistence. Let them find their passion and follow it. Mentor them in teenage and expose them to different careers and various competitive universities which require excellence in both academia and community service.

Dr Catherine Syengo Mutisya is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Family therapist

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