Is Your Child’s Behavior A Cry For Help?
Are you worried that your child has become withdrawn, anxious, or depressed?
Have they experienced trauma, loss, or grief that may be contributing to their emotional distress?
Do you think it might be time to consider seeking counseling because your kid’s behavior has become too difficult to navigate on your own?
If your child is struggling emotionally, rather than being able to tell you what’s wrong, they might behave in ways that interfere with school, home, or extracurricular activities. Perhaps they have become isolated, despondent, and excessively fearful or anxious. Or maybe your child is quick to anger and acts out aggressively toward you or others.
You may be concerned that your child has regressed emotionally or reverted to bedwetting after being toilet-trained. If they have fallen behind in school or encounter difficulty getting along with their siblings or making friends, these could all be symptoms of an underlying psychological problem.
You May Be Unsure How To Help Them
As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to see your child in pain and not know what the best course of action is. If they act out and exhibit defiant behavior, you may have tried discipline initially, only to discover it was ineffective or seemed to make things worse. Perhaps you didn’t realize how severe your child’s distress had become and held off on taking action until things escalated.
For your child to thrive, they need to feel safe, understood, and heard. In conjunction with your love and care, receiving additional support from a therapist can help your child express themselves and get in touch with the big emotions that are overwhelming them.
Lower Income Children Are Especially Susceptible To Mental Health Disorders
Sadly, many American children are facing challenges with mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, “1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.” In addition, “among children living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, more than 1 in 5 had a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.”
A host of factors can contribute to mental health issues among children, including:
Divorce, separation, or other changes in a family situation
Neglect and/or abuse
Physical and mental disabilities
Chronic illness and hospitalization
Grief and loss of significant relationships
At Risk Children Need Protection
Children are incapable of truly advocating for themselves, nor can they protect themselves against the adults responsible for their care. And too often, they are put in situations where this adult has a vested interest in silencing them. From an early age, they may have been exposed to abuse or neglect that has caused unresolved trauma. Because they don’t have the cognitive capability to regulate their emotions and behaviors, they often become withdrawn, angry, or sad.
Although the reality is that sometimes kids are exposed to situations we wish they never had to experience, resources are available that can help them process what happened and heal. Whether your child has experienced trauma due to abuse, neglect, grief, or loss, counseling customized for children can help them tap into their feelings in a non-threatening way and learn how to cope with what happened.
Through Play Therapy, Children Can Connect With Their Emotions
For therapy to be a worthwhile experience for your child, they need to feel comfortable and engaged. Because kids haven’t reached emotional maturity yet, it’s important to modify therapy to reflect the stage of your child’s psychological and social development. What’s more, we need to establish an environment of trust between the child and therapist so that they feel empowered to express themselves openly. The therapeutic relationship provides your child with uninterrupted attention, care, and one-on-one support.
What To Expect In Sessions
Before beginning sessions with your child, the counselor will first want to meet with you to find out what’s been going on as well as learn about their family history. Although you will not attend your child’s ongoing therapy sessions, the therapist will schedule regular 30-minute check-in appointments with you via phone or telehealth.
At these stand-alone appointments, the therapist will communicate any patterns they see emerging in sessions so that you can learn how to manage these behaviors when you observe them at home. If a new coping skill is being introduced, they will let you know about it—or, perhaps, ask for advanced permission—so you will be prepared to help reinforce what your child is learning in therapy.
Throughout counseling, we highly encourage you to engage in at least 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted playtime with your child each week. Consistent playtime with your child will go much further in fostering a healthy, loving parent-child relationship than any discipline might. In addition, we encourage parents to seek individual treatment, either within our group practice or elsewhere. We are happy to refer you to a therapist who specializes in working with adults.
Play Therapy Helps Kids Express Themselves Authentically
Rather than having to verbalize how they feel through question and answer, therapy geared for children ages 5-12 incorporates play into each counseling session so kids can show us how they feel. As the counselor engages with them through developmentally appropriate games, your child becomes the director of their time in sessions and gets to play out what they need.
Through non-directive, child-centered play therapy, they are empowered to express their difficult emotions in the context of a safe relationship with an adult. Through the symbolic language of play, your child can explore and express their struggles while becoming aware of their thoughts and feelings.
Once in touch with their emotions, the therapist can help your child identify harmful behaviors associated with negative emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms to use in place of harmful ones. For example, they may learn how to release their anger by screaming into a pillow or using a punching bag. We also find that incorporating creative expression—through painting, drawing, or building things—can help your child more easily access emotions and feelings that lie beneath the surface.
But Maybe You’re Not Sure If Therapy Is Right For Your Child…
How can I tell if my child’s behavior warrants counseling?
Almost every child will exhibit some challenging behavior from time to time. As parents, we expect phases of development that might be more difficult to deal with than others. However, if your child has developed inappropriate emotional and behavioral responses that persist over time, this is an indication that they need professional help and could benefit from working with a therapist.
What if, after treatment for anxiety or depression, my child doesn’t get better?
Understandably, you may have concerns that, given the severity of their symptoms, no one will be able to help your child recover. However, the good news is that children are very responsive to treatment—especially child-centered play therapy. Within a supportive therapeutic environment, children can learn to thrive.
How long does counseling for children usually take?
Just like with adults, each child’s counseling process looks different. But in general, children typically attend counseling for a shorter duration than adults. Depending on the severity of your child's issues, therapy usually lasts approximately six months.
Your Child Deserves To Be A Carefree Kid
Let us help you help your child. If you would like to find out more about receiving therapy for your child, you may visit our contact page or call 719-506-2070 to schedule a free 15-minute call.