The Sad Truth about Child Counseling
By the time that most kids end up in counseling, they’ve been battling with things like anxiety, low self-esteem and even depression for quite awhile. Most of the time, kids don’t know where to start or even how to express how their feeling. It’s easy to understand why they can feel stuck and unhappy.
I find that parents often wait to consider therapy for kids, attempting instead to provide help on their own before seeking professional support. Other times, kids don’t precisely express the degree of their anxiety or sadness.
In any case, it can be confusing and overwhelming for parents.
Kids tend to be pleasers naturally. Therefore, they tend to hide their true feelings and emotions because they don’t want to cause their parents any more stress. If you think your child is worrying too much and feeling sad, know that this article and others out there aren’t designed to make you paranoid, we really are trying to help.
It’s entirely reasonable for kids to get worried and anxious; in fact, it’s what nature intended. Kids face several stressors these days, and each day has the potential for being a really great day or a complete tight wire act or even some weird combination 1-2 punch of both. It’s not easy growing up in the 21st century, given the societal pressures and social network connections we did not have growing up, let’s give these kids a little grace.
But not every “worrier” has an anxiety issue and not every crashing sadness on your child is indicative of a growing movement towards clinical depression. Your child, just like everyone’s child will experience emotional rollercoasters and that’s normal, ok, fine and healthy, because growing up and dealing with emotions and feelings is tough stuff (it wasn’t too long ago, right?). It’s imperative to be there for them when a deep crash of emotions is the case but also be vigilant for the common issues that may increase in frequency and sustain themselves for over two or more weeks. It’s possible that frequent and sustained negative behaviors require professional intervention.
The Statistical Proof for Child Counseling
We know that depression and anxiety disorders are on the rise among children in the US and abroad according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%), and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%). I know that the report includes a large swath of ages but, just as alarming was this report, also from the CDC, “1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.”
It’s imperative that you trust your gut and watch for behaviors that tell you it’s time to seek help. As you can see from the statistics, as parents, we have been reluctant to say or do anything for the hope that it’s “just a phase.” It’s better to seek help and be wrong or considered overly cautious than to seek advice when things are out of control.
Nobody knows your child better than you, right? Nobody! So, if something is off with your child, especially for a period lasting more than two weeks, make an appointment with your family physician or get a recommendation from a friend with experience and call around to talk with a few private counseling clinics or businesses that specialize in child counseling and behavior.
If your thinking about making that move, we’re going to walk you through several “red flag” issues, and if you see these behaviors in your child exist to give you more guidance on what to look out for if your thinking about child counseling. it’s likely time to talk to a professional.
The 7 Signs To Keep Watch Over and Identify If your Kids Need Child Counseling
1. Social Segregation
If your kid becomes withdrawn from close friends (like refusing to join playdates and begins eating lunch/recess alone), pay very close attention. Social segregation may be a signal of depression, anxiety or both.
2. Issues beyond the home
When kids are dealing with their mental health, problems tend to arise in more than just one place. You might see behavioral changes in your home, school, on the field playing with friends.
3. Sleeping and Eating are Indicators
All kids have growth spurts and periods when they eat or sleep more or less than average for a few days, but if you notice significant changes in eating and sleeping habits that last for more than two weeks, you should call the doctor and schedule a check-up asap.
You also want to listen to your child or prompt them to talk about their dreams, are they having frequent nightmares, difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep? These changes in behavior should perk up your parent watchdog mindset. It’s not healthy to have long stretches of this sort of sleep disruption.
4. Excessive fears and worries
It’s perfectly normal for kids to worry at times. The older they get, the more “real world worries” (think car accidents and natural disasters) creep into their thoughts. That’s okay. Empathy and reassurance can be a big help for little worriers. If excessive fears and worries (as in stressing over every single thing that can happen) hold your child back from getting to school, leaving the house, or participating in group activities like sports or play dates, you should look for help.
We tend to imagine things like “cutting” and “suicidal thoughts” as self-harm, but the truth is that there are plenty of other less suspicious behavioral patterns and instances that we should be looking at with a different mindset. Things like hair pulling, banging their heads against object or walls, digging their fingernails or other sharp objects into their skin are just a couple of examples to keep an eye out for. As always, you know your child better than anyone else but these types of behavior are typical can easily be viewed by many parents as isolated events when, in fact, they are coupled with other disruptive behavioral patterns; i.e., sleeping issues and anxiety.
6. Deep thoughts on Death
We should all be talking about death more in our lives but, for our children, thoughts about dying out fo context or typical behavior could indicate something else at work. It’s perfectly fine for any child to talk about death, like the questions every parent gets on “what happens after death” mainly when there has been a family or pet loss. That’s not what we’re talking about here, a signal that something else may be going on our thoughts or actions (like thinking, journaling, writing or drawing pictures about dying, wishing to die or killing) if any of these signs are happening, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. Please don’t ever confront a child or anyone for that matter, which may show these types of signs with blame or shame; love is the only answer here. Provide support, love, time and energy into understanding and assisting in their quest to live again.
7. Regressed behavior
More often than not, regressed behavior is the first sign of a child in need of emotional support. Bedwetting (when your child is night trained), clingy behavior, separation issues (including school refusal) and frequent (intense) meltdowns should all be considered calls for help.
It’s never a bad idea to talk with a professional if you’re worried about your child but, remember this, sometimes it can be worse to wait too long. You are a parent! Trust your gut; you have a pretty good idea when things aren’t right, so trust yourself and reach out for some help.
Disclaimer: This article is not individualized consulting and does not replace individualized consulting with a mental health practitioner. If you have any concerns about the mental health of your child, seek immediate professional help. You can reach out to Insight Wellness and Counseling’s team for free if you want to explore your options.