How to Decide Quickly When a Child Needs to see a Therapist

Children can also be taught how to deal with complex emotions in healthy ways; as well as learn how to self-regulate in the process. However, sometimes your child might need a therapist or mental health professional to help with facing challenges. The question becomes how parents can decide quickly when their child needs to see a therapist. It is not a sign of being a good or bad parent. Rather it is accepting that children are growing and developing in a very different world than their parents grew up in; and sometimes they need help with coping with challenges.

child needs a therapist

In fact many times, the speed of getting the intervention is critical in successfully helping a child learn how to deal with complex emotions. Click To Tweet

While there can be many reasons why children need support through what appears to be multiple emotions, the pandemic, has had a profound effect on tween and teen mental health. But really how do you know if your child needs therapy? Parents need to be able to identify the signs that their children need help. Also as children are different, there is no one answer. According to Jenny Yip, Psy.D., ABPP, board-certified psychologist, what is an issue for one child may not be an issue for another. While each child is different and will react to challenges and circumstances differently, according to experts, there are some signs and signals worth paying attention to.

“Each child is going to deal with stress differently,” says Dr Yip. “Some children may have a higher resiliency level, while others may be more cautious and anxious.”

As a parent, it’s important to know the signs that your child may need a bit of additional support from a mental health professional to help them better cope. According to therapists and mental health experts, below are some signs that it may be time for your child to start working with a therapist. The quicker parents take action and get the right intervention for the child, the better.

Your child is constantly seeking reassurance

When a child is constantly seeking information from social media or asking parents for reassurance, this can be a key indicator of anxiety. Obtaining absolute certainty isn’t ever possible—now and in any situation in life. If as a parent you see there is an increased need for assurance, it might be with having them see a professional. Now with all the bad news out there and access to content that children cannot process, it can lead to anxiety. In this case, a child needs to work on being more resilient and to be OK on their own.

Changes in sleep patterns

Parents should pay attention to changes in sleep patterns, whether increased or decreased sleep. A child might be experiencing underlying conditions that need to be properly assessed. For example, during the pandemic, some children had trouble falling asleep due to worry. Of course, parents must avoid jumping to conclusions. And while you need to take quick action you should also assess what else is going on with the child. For example, a child who is playing video games late into the night, might sleep longer because they are staying up past bedtime. The key to deciding when a child might need to see a therapist is to consider as many factors as possible.

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More Isolation

“If you see your child or teen spending more time in their room and not reaching out to family or friends, this is another sign that they may need to get some extra support,” says Cat Ryan, a case therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. While it is normal to want some downtime too much alone time can exacerbate depression.

Increased Clinginess

According to experts, Clinginess may signal anxiety. When a child doesn’t feel the confidence or resiliency to deal with being alone they might become more clingy. A therapist will help a child build self-confidence and the right attitude that is needed to develop resiliency and confidence. Note that the key is when there is a change in their normal behaviours and to be confused for a child whose love language for example is spending quality time with their parents.

More irritability

“In children and adolescents, anxiety is often manifested as agitation, irritability, and quick responses”. says, Dr Eshleman. The therapist can assist with strategies to challenge concerns and work with the child to develop active coping strategies to manage his or her distress. Without the language and ability to share how they feel, a child might become more irritable. Children who have gone through a lot of change might also be susceptible.

Withdrawal from activities

Withdrawal from activities a child used to love can be a symptom of depression. As a result, it is especially important that parents pay attention. And quickly determine if the disinterest is related to a genuine change in interest or more of a permanent change. For example, a child might typically enjoy art, and after doing it every day for a period of time; he may just be tired of it. A therapist will be able to further assess the change in interest and address any underlying symptom/cause.

Changes in hygiene and eating habits

A change in hygiene and eating habits can be a warning sign that your child may be experiencing signs of depression or anxiety. In addition to ensuring that your child has a routine for hygiene, such as bathing, brushing teeth etc; paying attention to these changes is also important. It is important to quickly deal with changes before they become long-term.

How to Find a Mental Health Professional for Your Child

If you believe there is a need for your child to see a therapist; a great place to start is by speaking with your paediatrician, GP or family doctor. It is helpful to review your concerns with someone familiar with typical child development. And ideally, someone who also knows your child to further discuss the concerns. It is also helpful to consider speaking to school personnel and pastoral care.

Parents must ensure any therapist they engage is a verified professional who is certified to take care of their child. Mental health experts specialise in different types of treatment plans. As a result, you want to be sure to ask the right questions before you have any therapist work with your child.

Parenting is a demanding job already. So when children are going through changes it can be challenging. The truth is that it can be difficult to know if your child is just going through a temporary stressful period that will self-resolve. And while it is important to avoid overreacting; knowing when a child needs to see a therapist is critical. Lastly, if a child has faced a major life change; you may want to proactively seek out a counsellor or therapist.

Doing so can be helpful for you and your child.

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