If a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist has diagnosed a child with social maladjustment, this means the professional has worked through the criteria established in professional literature to determine that the child does not have a chronic mental illness that is treatable through conventional medications or school programming.
However, social maladjustment is a severe disturbance that will require time and resources to ensure a child can succeed in mainstream schooling or other social environments.
Professional Treatment for Social Maladjustment in Children
Children with innate or intra-psychic symptoms usually cannot control their emotional responses and generally do not maneuver events to their advantage, and this is one of the significant distinctions between a chronic, serious mental illness (as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and this social disturbance.
When an assessment comes back with social maladjustment as its conclusion the child will not be eligible for most publicly-funded mental health services and may not be eligible for special needs programming at school. It may be up to the guardian to obtain the professional help needed to coach the child in changing behavioral problems.
Parents are advised to seek help in addressing a child’s social maladjustment as soon as possible in order to mitigate future problems. Untreated, social maladjustment often is correlated with juvenile criminal behavior, and immature social responses, like lack of empathy, which can become associated with characterological issues.
A good place to begin is with a local agency which provides parenting classes and a peer support group for parents with children with serious behavioral problems. There are many parenting skills and behavioral management techniques to employ in helping a child create a new pattern of behavior. One of the main tools is how to respond consistently when the child challenges authority.
If affordable, it’s usually recommended that the child should engage in individual therapy; in an ideal setting, the child can establish a solid, working relationship with that therapist. Many schools offer free or low-cost counseling on-site. If that is not an option, parents can find a free, local support group meeting that the family can attend. Positive social influences will be needed, and the support group serves as a safe place for the child to unravel her feelings and anxieties.
Parental Interventions at Home
There are behavioral interventions that parents can employ in their home to manage the complexity of social maladjustment in children. First, productively structuring the child’s day: outlining together what each day entails in the morning at breakfast and mentally preparing for the next day during dinner. The more organized the family is, the easier each day will go for a child with special needs, and anticipating events will help her prepare for the social aspects involved.
Although it is healthy to engage the child in an array of activities, building in quiet time every day is essential. Children must learn how to entertain themselves with books, journals, and self-directed play in order to practice these skills which will be needed as they grow up, and which are reinforced in school settings as employment preparation.
Do not be afraid to talk with a child about the behavior (cause) of and the consequences (effect) of his social maladjustment in the context of emotional and behavioral regulation. When he shares asocial or anti-social thoughts, listen and do not challenge them if it disrupts the main threads of the emotional exchange: the professionals will dialogue with the child about those thoughts in therapy.
Generally, the behaviors of social maladjustment are self-centered and prevent the child from being able to think about other people as autonomous beings. One goal is to teach the child skills of empathy, using pets and people he likes as role models of compassion, and then reversely, as recipients of his practiced empathy.
Parents must learn how to use the strategy of positive reinforcements as a key element in maintaining patience. Positive reinforcements must be meaningful to the child, quickly given upon achievement, and preferably not related to food. Eventually, to test if a child’s behavior is improving, positive reinforcement for a new, specific action is evaluated for genuine response.
Mind the Fundamentals of Social Maladjustment
Since the general idea is that a child has learned his socially maladjusted behavior through role modeling, take time to evaluate the child’s social environment and relationships. A reduced role model does not need to be eliminated from the child’s life, but tools to counteract the poor role models’ influence in productive ways will develop.
In addition to the mental health treatment and parental interventions reviewed herein, remember doctors generally recommend an average of ten hours of sleep each night; three meals a day and snacks; thirty minutes to one hour of exercise each day; one visit to the pediatrician a year; and one visit to the dentist each year.
If it is a struggle to provide these for a child, there may require assistance available through a community agency, the school, a spiritual community, or a family doctor. There are many community resources dedicated to children suffering from mental health and behavioral issues.