By: Elizabeth (Liz) Ener, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S
Similarly to adults, most children experience struggles across the span of their lives. It is very normal to have ups and downs in life and as children develop, some struggles are expected. Periods of moodiness, challenges with friends, and academic struggles are all things that happen intermittently for children. However, occasionally what seems like normal childhood struggles can turn into something more serious. Sometimes these struggles can be anticipated, such as experiencing challenges following the death of a loved one, starting a new school, or the separation or divorce of parents. Or perhaps they are experiencing difficulty make friends or struggle with aggression in the school or home setting.
Deciding when to take action and what action to take can be difficult. There are definitely times when waiting to take action can be disastrous, such as: disordered eating patterns (i.e., eating disorders), hurting oneself, and/or thoughts or actions of wanting to die or hurt others, but often the decision to reach out for counseling services is a little more gray.
To help with the decision, below are a list of behaviors or emotional expressions in which, if demonstrated, warrant a high enough level to be concerned to take action towards accessing therapy services for your child:
- Demonstrates ongoing struggles across multiple areas of life, such as home and academic settings, family relationships, leisure activities, and friendships.
- Makes comments such as “I wish I wasn’t here,” Or “Nobody cares about me.”
- Engages in repetitive self-destructive behaviors (i.e., hair pulling, skin picking, hitting oneself or banging their head…etc.)
- Observable diminished confidence and self-esteem; feeling ineffective and/or bad about themselves.
- Begins withdrawing from family, friends, or activities they used to enjoy.
- Demonstrates significant change in sleep habits or appetite.
- Begins displaying increased worries and nervousness about the future or around performance.
- Increasingly self-critical
- Demonstrates disruptive behaviors (i.e., yelling, throwing, hurting others…etc.)
- Verbalizes or engages in any kind of self-harm.
- Talks about suicide or wanting to die.
If you or other significant individuals in a child’s life, such as a teacher, are concerned about your child’s behavioral, emotional, or social functioning, play or activity therapy may be an effective solution. Ultimately, it is imperative that parents trust their gut. If you feel that something just does not feel or sit right with you, trust your instinct here. It is much better to go to an initial appointment if you’re not sure. Here at The Talking Place we offer a free initial phone consultation to discuss your concerns in brevity—if you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not your child needs therapy, reach out to us and we can offer some guidance.