As a parent, we desire what is best for our children. When our child has a health ailment, we are quick to take them to the hospital. However, when our child experiences trouble with behavior, we may be hesitant to seek professional help. This could be because parents may be fearful of having a stigma that is associated with one having mental health challenges or simply a fear of being judged as a parent. These are both natural concerns that parent may have. Therefore, it’s important to remember that children, like adults, also experience highs and lows in life. Some things are simply not in our control. Know that you are not alone as there is help available for your child. Keep in mind that a registered play therapist is an ideal choice for your child as he or she begins the therapeutic process. Please read below to learn more about the eight signs to signal you that your child may need to seek the help of a mental health professional:
- Exhibiting defiant behaviors: Defiant behavior is a primary reason parents bring their child to therapy. Sometimes parents may need help to understand that defiant behaviors can often be the result of a traumatic experience or may stem from an emerging behavior.
- A change in behavior or routine–As parents, it is highly important to be aware of your child’s behavior and/or routines. This is the only way to know if your child’s behavior or routine is or seems out of the norm. The slightest change to a child’s behavior or daily routine can be a very telling signal that they need professional help or care. Knowing your child’s habits are key.
- Excessive Worry or sadness: At times children may struggle with expressing their thoughts and feelings while navigating changes in their mood. You may even see a change in your child’s eating or sleeping habits. If a child seems unusually anxious, sad, or irritable for an extended time period AND it prevents them from being able to engage in their regular activities, this is a sure sign that it just may be time to give therapy a try.
- Regressive Behavior: It is common for kids to regress after major life changes, such as the birth of a new sibling, witnessing domestic violence, chronic illness, a move to a new area or school, or a parent’s divorce. Regression can appear in various ways such as bedwetting, being overly fearful, tantrums, reduction in confidence, or clinginess. Such life changes can be difficult for a child to effectively communicate or express. Parents must monitor their child’s behavior for changes as children will often express emotions through a regression of behaviors. These are all signs that therapy may be needed.
- Social Isolation: Social Isolation or withdrawal from peers is a sign that something may be wrong. Spending excessive amounts of time in their room or declining invitations to hang out with friends may be a sign that it is time to seek professional help.
- Self-harm/Destructive behaviors: Self-harm is always an indicator to seek help as self-harm is NEVER okay! It is your child’s cry for help. Examples of self-harming behaviors are cutting themselves, digging their nails into their skin to cause pain, refusal to eat, and experimenting with pills. On social media, there is so much discussion about self-harm being a way to take control of pain…but this is NEVER the answer! Self-harm is never an option!
- An increase in physical complaints: Some children have difficulty expressing emotions. This may present itself as a child feeling unwell or making physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, or backaches. Once you have addressed your child’s physical ailments with no reduction in complaints, anxiety must be considered; it is time to reach out to a mental health professional.
- Support: Seeking therapy for the child can in turn be a support system for parents. Sometimes parents may need support with learning how to redirect behaviors and how to assist with emotional development. Also, when parents seek therapy for their child, it can lead parents to focus on their own mental health which can have a direct impact on the child in a positive way.
As you navigate your decision-making process in seeking therapy for your child, what area(s) of concern have you identified for your child?
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