Hi, I'm Dr. Kevin Skinner. Thank you for asking your question here on ParentGuidance.org, your question is:
I have an eight-year-old son that has difficulty sitting still, difficult to calm. Over the past six months, increased agitation and aggression. I'm not sure if the divorce has an impact on his behavior since it's been there for three years now. I need to find a way to decrease aggression and anger before it gets too out of control.
You know a couple things what we know is that there can can be an influence on divorce after the fact, that maybe initially didn't show up. But we also know that there may be other things, and I don't want to say it's because of the divorce, but something happened six months ago where you've seen an increase in agitation and aggression. Now, not uncommon for an eight-year-old to be, you know, anxious and moving around that's not uncommon. Difficult to calm? I think that that's an interesting question and that is what is happening and what has happened to increase maybe the stress in your child's life, is at school lack of connection with friends? Again, I would want to go back six months and see if there is something that has happened. Maybe it was an argument with a friend or being bullied on a playground or maybe that's something that happened at the other parents home. All of these things, I don't know, or maybe even at your home, something has changed and that there's more aggression at home. I would want to in a calmer time with your son, maybe sit down and have a conversation. Maybe with a ball back and forth, or you're playing with a ball, just talking about something has changed over the past few months. I wonder what it is, you seem a little bit more upset, or maybe you're mad at me? Are you mad at me? Are you mad at anybody?
Thinking about this concept of helping your child feel safe. Notice, these are questions. I don't know the answer, they're just questions, but something happened a few months ago. And, as a parent the hope is that you could find out so your child could talk about it rather than just hold it inside. Sometimes anger and aggression is a way that they get attention. So, you want to make sure that you give attention at calm times in positive ways.
Safety comes when we feel connected to others. Safety comes when we feel safe with ourselves. So, your child's on the move. On the move, on the go. Now, some people say "well does he have ADHD?" Well, I don't know if he has ADHD all I know is that right now, he's anxious. His mind's moving and I wonder if you can help him maybe with a guided meditation where you're just listening to things and relaxing with him teaching him how to slow down could be a good idea and would be a good idea. The other thing, as difficult as it may be is you might call up the other parent and talk about some things that you're observing or send a message and say "I'm observing this, are you experiencing something similar?" Now, you may not feel comfortable with that, I don't know the nature of the divorce, but it would be helpful to get some feedback and maybe tag team at if and best case scenario if that's possible.
Now, the other thing is if it continues you might want to consider getting play therapy or sand tray therapy where your child can act out some of their emotions or his emotions by play. We know the play therapy is better than talk therapy, which is why even as a parent you might get a ball while you're talking or you might go on a walk or on a bike ride to talk about some of these emotions. Don't be afraid to teach your child or your son what you want the behavior that you want him to engage in, and teach him in those difficult moments how to slow down the mind how to relax the Mind.
Anyway, these are some things that I would consider as you go through this process. Don't be afraid to have these conversations. But if you need more support, I would seek professional help from a therapist who does play therapy because that is been found to be more effective with children. Not necessarily one-on-one talk therapy.
All right. Thank you for your question. And I wish you and your son the best.