By Laura Walls
I have people ask me all the time, “How do I know when I need to call a therapist for my child?” That is a great question. Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish between typical changes of childhood and changes to be concerned about.
Children go through a lot of stages growing up including mood swings, changes in weight, being more impulsive, being more argumentative, and testing boundaries. So, being able to tell when the behavior or mood changes are beyond what we would typically see in children can be tough.
Here are some things to keep in mind to help with that decision:
Go with your gut. If you are asking yourself whether to start therapy services for your child, chances are that your child needs it. Whether they know it or not, parents often develop a sense about when their child needs some additional help. If you are thinking that your child needs something extra, you are probably right.
If you’re considering medication for your child, you probably need some help. Many parents are told that medication is needed to manage their child’s moods or behaviors. While medications tend to be a common solution, most of the problems a child experiences can be helped without the use of medication. In these cases, it is good to consult a counselor first, in case medication is not the path for you.
If you have no idea what to do, you probably need some help. I hear people say all the time that children do not come with an instruction manual, and that is so true. Learning how to handle a difficult child, or how to help a child with depression or anxiety is not something we are born knowing how to do. Many people look for information on the internet and in parenting books, but sometimes you need guidance from trained helpers.
It’s ok to not know. That’s what counselors are for.
Learning how to handle a difficult child, or how to help a child with depression or anxiety is not something we are born knowing how to do and it takes some help from trained individuals. Also, internet searches can give parents a lot of information but if you are finding that nothing works, then you may need some guidance.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re seeking counseling for your child.
It is not a negative reflection of you as a parent. Parents constantly tell me how guilty and inadequate they feel now that their child needs therapy. But know that sometimes children experience issues beyond the abilities of parents. Also, even when a parent needs some help or advice, the fact that the parent has taken the steps toward help shows how good a parent you are and not how bad a parent you are.
Make contact. Most facilities, including Apex Counseling, are happy to listen to what is going on and help with the decision. Don’t hesitate to send an email or make a call to just simply ask the opinion of a provider. You may feel like the therapist is biased, but know that I have told parents over the phone many times that what they are describing is typical behavior.
Realize therapy doesn’t last forever. If you do make the decision to seek therapy for your child, know that it will not last forever. Most symptoms can be addressed in a relatively short period of time. Parents sometimes worry that their child will come to rely on therapy but know that therapy is designed to teach children and families how to make positive changes without continued help.
So, with this guidance, hopefully you can feel confident and make an informed decision. For some people, the decision to start therapy can seem overwhelming but know that taking the first step relieves a lot of worry.