As a parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your child from harm and make sure they grow up healthy and happy. But even the so-called “helicopter” parents miss things. Knowing the signs your child may need therapy is important to be able to ensure your child’s mental and emotional well-being as they grow into happy, healthy young adults.
Some “boo-boos” aren’t as noticeable as a broken bone, but these emotional wounds can be just as painful, if not more. And if left untreated, these emotional injuries can result in further challenges and complications as your child grows up. This is where therapy comes in.
Many children experience emotional disturbances and bumps in the road of adolescence. For a lot of kids, school can be an especially stressful place. Some children place greater pressure on performing and fitting in and this internal (or external – talking to you parents!) pressure can create symptoms of anxiety and depression.
But how do you know if your child child needs more than just extra attention and love and support? What are the signs your child needs help?
Signs Your Child May Need Therapy
No one knows your child better than you. While a friend or even your pediatrician may say your kiddo is just “going through a stage,” you’re in the best position and are the best person to recognize if something seems…off or not-right. Trust your instincts.
With this in mind, here are some signs your child may need therapy:
- They’re having trouble at school (grades, bullying others, talking back to teachers…)
- They’re attempting to injure themselves (i.e., cutting…)
- They avoid family functions and ignore friends
- They display frequent mood swings and/or extreme emotions (anxiety, angry outbursts)
- They have difficulty concentrating
- They have difficulty sleeping
- They’re eating far more or far less than before
Obviously this isn’t a “complete” list but it certainly highlights some behaviors that may need to be addressed by a professional.
But before you give yourself a panic attack, it’s important to note that there may other explanations or other concerns to be ruled out before you take your kid to a therapist. For instance, has your child had a full medical work-up recently? Her performance at school could be caused by an emotional disturbance, OR it could be caused by poor eyesight. Their difficulty sleeping could be caused by anxiety, OR it could be the result of a biological issue that is causing them pain.
What about the marriage? Are you and your partner arguing more lately? Are you doing it in front of your child? Maybe your child’s behavior is a natural response to an emotional situation at home.
Talk to Your Child About Therapy
What if your child is quite young? Maybe you’re worried they’re too young for therapy. But maybe your child may like the idea of talking to someone special about how they feel. And, at the end of the day, your child is taking cues from you on how to feel about things. If you feel therapy has a certain stigma, your child will feel shame and not want to explore this option. But if you see therapy as beneficial, chances are your child will as well and be open to trying it.
Once you decide to explore treatment options, look for a therapist who specializes in helping kids your child’s age and has experience and training to treat with whatever their issue is. Don’t just try to find the closest therapist to your home that takes your insurance that has convenient hours. This is a mistake that most people make when first looking for a therapist or counselor.
Raising kids is the hardest and most important job you’ll ever have. It’s tough stuff. Utilize the resources around you, communicate openly and honestly with your child, and if things feel off, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.