Children go through many physical and emotional changes into their early adulthood. Many of these changes are natural and can be dealt with by open discussion and support from parents, teachers and friends. A few examples may be: starting a new school, a divorce, or a family move. Oftentimes your child’s behavior is a sign they need help right away - an eating disorder, cutting, suicidal thoughts or attempts.
As a parent who is wondering if they should get help for their child, there are a few helpful guidelines that can lead your decision.
Has your child’s behavior changed? This would include time at school and home. Are they having a difficult time focusing in school? Do they not want to go to school anymore? Are they spending more time in their room than previously? Are they crying, worrying, yelling more than usual?
Is their behavior impacting their daily life? Are they not able to fall asleep due to worrying about school? Do they no longer want to leave home or hang out with friends? Are they having more trouble at school or with friends due to their behaviors?
How long has the behavior been occurring? Some anxiety and sadness are normal and a child can work through it, but if the behavior is not resolving in a few months or teachers and others are noticing the behavior continues to linger, then getting help is recommended.
If you are questioning whether to get your child help, it may be beneficial to ask your child’s teachers or school counselor. Talk to others that spend time with your child to see if they have noticed changes. It’s always a good idea to be in contact with your child’s teacher as concerns come up. It may be that you are noticing behaviors at home that the teacher doesn’t see or vice versa. The teacher or school staff may also have insight into the cause of your child’s behaviors. This could be a result of bullying at school or learning difficulties.
As a therapist, my goal is to provide a supportive, trusting, non-judgemental environment using play and pet therapy to aid in behavioral and emotional concerns with the child and family. When a child comes to see me for therapy, we don’t spend much time sitting on the couch and talking. We are active in our sessions doing activities that focus on identifying feelings, problem-solving and coping skills. My goal is to get a view into their lives through their lense, determine what best therapy and skill will they benefit from, and then teach those skills through play.
I have experience in this topic not only as a therapist but also as a mom of a child who began showing signs of anxiety around 4th grade. You may think that because I’m a therapist my kids should know all of the coping skills available, but that’s not the case (and it’s not recommended to do therapy with your own child!) Believe me, we tried many different techniques to decrease her anxiety such as: worry time (this is a set time every day to discuss concerns so they are not brought up multiple times throughout the day - or in our case, before bed causing poor bedtime routine), yoga, and breathing exercises. I was also communicating with her teachers, school counselors and friends’ parents, but there was a point that every day was a struggle to get to school and it was impacting my entire family, so we made an appointment for her to see a counselor. I felt better knowing she was getting the help she needed and it wasn’t my job. There can be times in our lives that we need additional support and it’s ok to ask for help. Of course, I’m a bit biased, but I don’t think of going to therapy as a weakness and I want to teach that to others too. There are times that we as parents don’t have all the answers and that’s ok, we don’t have to.