Why might children and adolescents need therapy?
In their early years, children go through countless changes and learn new things; not just how to walk and talk, but also how to express their feelings, how to relate to others, and how to view the world as a whole. Even the most well-adjusted child can benefit from the guidance of a therapist who can instill good mental hygiene habits and communication skills early on, as we will describe below.
Some mental and emotional challenges your children may face can push you to your limits as a care-giver, and a therapist can provide a much needed referee or steam valve for resulting conflict. Factors that can contribute to a more difficult relationship with your child may include:
A family history of mental health issues
Whether genetically or behaviorally, children inherit our ways of communicating and attitude to life. If you or a loved one struggle with mental illness, your child may exhibit similar challenges with mood, behavior, and communication, even at an early age.
Family trauma like abuse or addiction
While we may try to protect our children from past or present traumas either in or around the home, it’s difficult to shield them completely. They lack the experience and maturity to deal with the feelings that may arise from these issues, and as a parent you may struggle to explain complex adult problems to your kids, or handle their heightened emotions yourself.
Broadly defined, bullying is characterized by one or more perpetrators acting aggressively towards someone with inferior physical and/or social power. Being victimized by a bully can harm your child’s self-esteem, and in more extreme cases lead to physical and mental injury. Children often have trouble seeking help and dealing with the difficult emotions bullying brings up, whether through shame, fear, or simply an inability to communicate their experience to you. They may act out or undergo a noticeable change in personality as they wrestle internally with these feelings.
even if we think we know our kids better than anyone, they are unique individuals just like us - there’s a lot going on under the surface we may not see or understand. Certain patterns developing in your child’s behavior may point to an underlying issue that a therapist can help address.
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits; sleeping/eating too much, or not at all
- Destructive behaviors; self-harm, drug and alcohol use
- Long-term mood changes; seeming depressed, irritable, or anxious for extended periods of time
- Disruptive behavior; frequent extended tantrums, talking back to teachers, picking fights with friends
- Social isolation; withdrawing from extracurriculars, avoiding friends, not leaving the house
- Regression; repeating behaviors from earlier in childhood like bedwetting, excessive fearfulness, clinginess
- Increased physical complaints; headaches, excessive tiredness, nausea, and other physical symptoms where medical causes have been rules out
- Talking about death frequently; statements about physical harm to self and others, imagining death or wishing death on others
How can a therapist help your child or adolescent, and your family as a whole?
Therapists are trained to assess your child’s mental health, and to give them better tools for coping with difficult emotions. Even if your child is happy and well-behaved, a visit with a therapist can encourage them to be mindful of their mental health, and to let you know when something is wrong down the line. As a parent you can learn how to be more mindful as well, for example asking questions before jumping to discipline if your child is behaving disruptively.
If your child has more serious emotional and behavioral challenges, a therapist’s intervention can provide support, counseling, and direction to appropriate resources for both you and your child. Our own mental health and wellbeing can suffer when we’re worried about our children, and that can impact the way we parent them for better or worse. Having the input, validation, and expertise of a therapist can guide you and your family in growing and developing healthy communication tools while deepening your bond to one another.