How To Know When Your Child Needs Therapy
Doing right by your family is the goal of any parent. It’s why endless nights are spent worrying about nutrition, education, socialization, physical health, and mental stability. It can be hard to know, after all that, when the time has come to contact a child therapist near you to help with the moodiness, outbursts, and mental development of your child.
All children go through mood swings, especially as they grow older and hit the teenage years riddled with hormones. It can be easy to want to wait, to not jump to the conclusion that your child needs professional guidance to work through the issues they are facing.
Teen or child therapy does not have to be intimidating, however. Locations like The Family Center are focused on the health and wellbeing of children, and you risk no harm by contacting a child psychologist too early, although you may incur more risks if you wait too late.
To help make the decision, we’ve put together some tips you can keep in mind when determining if now is the time to call a child counselor. At the end of the day, trust your gut, and you can always reach out to professional child and teen therapists for advice.
When Assessing Your Child's Behavior, Keep These Tips in Mind
1) Keep in Mind That Behavior Warranting Child Therapy Varies from Child to Child
When determining if your child needs a counselor, remember that erratic or anxious behavior ranges from kid to kid, and this includes signs of mental stress, anxiety, depression, disorders, and more. Some kids have naturally high energy levels without having anxiety disorders, or some children are more prone to loner tendencies without it being a sign of needing a child counselor.
Make sure that when you’re assessing your child’s behavior, you’re tailoring it to their personality and not basing it on one blanket statement. It can be hard to disentangle this habit, especially if you knew a friend’s child that displayed certain traits and needed help and now your kid is asserting the same traits, but always think about what is normal for them.
2) Child Therapy is Based on the Age of the Child and Severity, Duration, and Frequency of the Warning Signs
Just as every kid’s behavior is naturally different, so are the age ranges in which you may notice changes of behavior in your child. Teens may be more likely to pull away from family time, and young children may have extra energy to spare, but these traits can be considered normal or healthy given the age ranges.
What you want to consider is: is this behavior healthy or expected at this age, how often is my child behaving this way, and how long does the behavior last for?
Your child may not necessarily need teen therapy if they’ve pulled away from their social circles for one week, or questioned their body image for ten minutes one afternoon. A much younger child removing themselves from their hobbies for over a month, or excessively dieting and obsessing over food for hours, lends itself to a much larger problem.
3) Look Beyond Your Home Life When Considering a Child Psychologist
If there are problems arising within the home that are troublesome, there should also be warning signs in other areas of your child’s life, too. Erratic behavior or anger outbursts may be occurring in school, during after-school activities, or on playdates. Pay attention to what teachers, coaches, and other parents may be saying. Don’t be afraid to ask the other adults in your child’s life if they have noticed any of the signs you’re seeing. If the behavior is restricted to the home, it is still a good idea to call a child counselor and discuss what may be provoking the behavior.
4) Child Psychiatrists May Ask About Family History -- Have You Looked at Yours
Although family history is not a complete guide to determining if your child is experiencing any mental health issues, it can be a helpful indicator. Consider if you, your spouse, or other biological family members showed signs of mental health symptoms around your child’s age and what the diagnosis was. A family history does not mean it’s neccassringly happening for your child, but a lack of family history doesn’t absolve the signs you are seeing, either. Taking into account medical family history can help when contacting a child counselor near you.
Specific Behaviors To Watch for When Wanting to Call a Child Therapist
Anger Outbursts, Violent Behaviors, or Overreactions
Is your child overreacting and exhibiting extreme emotional behavior that is out of character and unwarranted? Extreme anger outbursts, violent behaviors, and extreme emotional reactions can be signs of needing to call a child therapist.
Obsession with Food, Body Image, or Dieting
Although it’s cliche to see teen girls in pop culture exhibiting a concern over body image, diets, and what they eat, it’s not healthy behavior for your child to show. Consult with a teen therapist for your son or daughter if they begin obsessing over their body image, investing in extreme diets, stop eating, you suspect are vomiting back up their food, or are overly picky at meal times.
Isolation and Withdrawal from Hobbies, Friends, Activities
When your child suddenly withdraws from activities and people they once enjoyed, this can be a problem you want to have a child counselor around for. Fights with friends or an off week can be normal, but if your child is suddenly declining invitations from friends, not participating in sports or groups they once looked forward to, and are isolating from most people in their life, this can be pointing to a larger problem they aren’t discussing.
Talk of Suicide, Running Away, Hopelessness, or Self-Harm
It can be alarming to hear your child talk about suicide or discover they’ve engaged in self-harm. Child counselors can help kids get to the root of their problems and help protect them moving forward from their emotions. If your kid mentions hopelessness or thoughts of running away, talk to them and touch base with a teen therapist to evaluate the problem.
Out of Control Feelings, Need to Control, Obsessive Behavior
Contact a child therapist if you notice your child taking part in obsessive behavior -- rewashing of the hands, completing repetitive tasks, or other activities that are unhealthy and abnormal. Your child feeling out of control or needing an extreme amount of control can be about anxiety and can result in obsessive behaviors and routines that impact their daily life.
Changes in Sleep, Eating, Routine
If your teen or child is sleeping more or less than usual, has developed different eating patterns, or is exhibiting an overall change in routine, be aware. These signs coupled with other abnormal behavior can indicate something larger is going on that is affecting their habits and health.
Alcohol or Drug Use
Alcohol and drugs in any age child can be a cause of contacting your local teen therapist. Experimentation and curiosity can be natural impulses during the teenage years, but the use of illegal substances can be dangerous and lead to worsening behavior. Child counselors can help ensure the behavior doesn’t progress and can determine if your child is trying to hide from something by ingesting these substances.
Pay attention to your child’s behavior when considering calling a child psychologist, and consider if your child is acting younger than their age suddenly. Clinginess, bed-wetting, and other behaviors normally found in younger children can be a sign something is mentally bothering your child.
Don’t be afraid to contact the child counselors and teen therapists in your area. Growing up can be a difficult thing for kids, especially when coupled with hormones, brain chemistry, exterior influences, and more. A child psychologist should always be willing to meet with you and your kid to help determine if on-going child therapy is needed. When in doubt, trust your gut, and know there is never any issue with contacting additional outside help when trying to do the best for your family.