So I have been feeling worried about Michael. Yes, I am a worrier and prone to anxiety myself. But, I have been seeing a little bit of a personality shift in my tween. He is going from a very extroverted social kid to being a little more withdrawn and not wanting to be in big places doing big things like in the past. The scariest thing at first was how he didn’t want to be around big crowds in stores, parks, beaches, pools. This was not the Michael I have known since infancy, who although would get overwhelmed, loved talking to and socializing with different people. Puberty has brought many changes, and one of them has become a greater awareness of his environment, appropriate and inappropriate things to do, and self-conscious thoughts. Was the medication causing this? Was he depressed? Or was this normal?
I am beginning to think this is part of Michael’s normal adolescence. His awareness of the world around him and the noises, social norms and other things expected of them, has made him a little more self-conscious and shy. I don’t think it is anything to worry about, though I do worry about his retreating socially a bit. A lot of the fights we’ve had lately have been around me saying he can’t let fear push him away from trying new things. He has taken it that I am trying to push him full force into talking something fearful, when I am clarifying with him that no, I don’t mean that. What I want is for him to tackle his fears slowly, break down the worry into small pieces, and then see how he can be successful. I think he is starting to believe me, though we are having hiccups along the way. What parent and tween don’t, right?
I am happy to say that I have seen a great maturity in Michael and how is handling his meltdowns lately. He is learning what he is doing right, and where he needs to improve. He spoke tonight that he stopped himself from throwing something in anger and let out his rage in crying and punching a toy meant to be a release for his anger. I commended him for doing that, though I have to admit it broke my heart to hear him crying. He also said it helps him to have one of us nearby when he is having challenges, both to see him through the tough time, and after when he is calm to talk. I realized this is not a child who is not well. This is a child who is slowly learning about his nervous system and how and what works for him to handle anger and anxiety and reset himself.
Red flags for a child would be complete pulling away from family and friends, complete personality changes social or solitary, and any kind of repeated destructive behavior where lessons were not learned and the intensity of it got worse. I am thankful that this is not the case. In fact, even on the harder days, we are seeing improvement. It just means more resilience is demanded of Dad and I as we need to have the patience and compassion to show Michael we will never give up on him so he does not give up on himself.
Exceptional Parents, have you noticed any personality changes in your Exceptional Child? If so, have you been able to pinpoint if they are in trouble or simply growing up? As always, you need to trust your parenting gut in figuring out what it is they need. If in doubt, get a professional opinion. In most cases though, sooner or later your child will tell you that this is who they are in what they say or do. Then you will know how best to support them from where they are at that moment. Until next time.