Childhood is full of struggles. Parent often joke that things were easier back in their day, but although some challenges have changed with the years, growing up remains a process full of challenges. Different kids struggle with different challenges so some moodiness, anxiety, and social and school difficulties can be expected.
Normal developmental challenges require children and teens to change perspectives or learn new skills to cope. Most of the time, given time and patience, kids can figure out these bumps in the road. Occasionally kids get stuck, or can’t figure out how to handle a challenge on their own. These situations may call for outside help, in the form of counseling.
Wait a minute, this isn't that serious
Parents may assume that seeking counseling or other mental health treatment automatically means a diagnosis and medication or hospitalization for their child, and therefore may be reluctant to seek any help. The truth is, therapy is about gaining new coping skills and learning different strategies for handling problems.
Does my child need therapy?
When normal childhood difficulties spill into other areas of life, its time to seek professional help. You should be concerned if your child:
- Has problems in multiple areas of life, such as family relationships, academic performance, leisure activities and friendships.
- Starts feeling bad about himself or herself, less confident or less effective.
- Shows excessive worry about the future or fearfulness.
- Expresses hopelessness.
- Withdraws from family, friends or activities he or she used to enjoy.
- Has a significant change in sleep habits or appetite
- Engages in negative behavior more frequently.
- Has repetitive, self-destructive behaviors such as hair-pulling or skin-picking.
- Talks about or engages in any kind of self-harm.
- Talks explicitly about suicide.
- Has persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
- Has a tendency to overreact to situations.
- Preoccupied with physical illness or their own appearance.
- A sudden, unexplained drop in grades at school or loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
- Has changes in patterns of sleeping or eating.
- Performs routines obsessively throughout the day, such as washing hands or cleaning things.
- Experiences regular nightmares.
Should I tell my child I'm concerned?
Don't be afraid to bring up your concerns with your child or ask, "Does this feel like something we need to get some help with?" Parents are often surprised by how willing their children are see a therapist or counselor. Children and teens are aware that they are struggling and can see the need for extra help.
And help isn't hard to find. Often you can start with a call to your pediatrician, who is an expert on differentiating between what’s normal and what's not. Your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist or recommend other resources to get thinks started.
Dominion Hospital offers a variety of therapy services to meet the needs of children and teens, as well as adults. Contact one of our first-step counselors to discuss your concerns, 24/7 at (703) 538-2872.