If you are a parent of a child at any age, you have probably asked yourself this question at some point.
And rightfully so! Children are exposed to a world that can be scary and overwhelming, and we were not trained in how to parent them.
Tweens are struggling with hormones while struggling with learning coping mechanisms at school and with friends. Teens were hoping for a modicum of independence, but you worry what that freedom can expose them to.
It’s chaos and disappointment wrapped up in a pretty bow.
How do you know if your child should see a therapist? And how do you know if it will help?
There are three ways you can know if your child should see a therapist:
- They are acting out a lot more than usual.
- They are isolating themselves from others.
- They are struggling a lot with changes.
1. They are acting out a lot more than usual.
If your kids are acting out in ways you haven’t seen before, and it stands out to you as not in line with their character, something is off for your child.
Have you ever seen the Pixar movie Inside Out? There is a scene where Ryley, the little girl, is at the dinner table with her parents. While she is processing through her emotions, she gets mad at her dad and yells in response to a little question.
This is actually a very common response for young people who are dealing with big emotions. Anger takes control of their emotion regulation center as a protective factor to keep them from feeling the pain of the emotions they are experiencing.
So if your child is yelling when you ask them a simple question, or are talking back a lot more than usual, or are getting physical with their siblings in anger when they have never done that before, your child needs more support.
2. They are isolating themselves from others.
Some children are shy and prefer to keep their circle tight and small. Some adults are also this way (see me raising my hand over here).
However, there is a big difference between being socially shy and socially isolated.
When a child is shy, they keep the circle small, only a handful of people they open up to and feel comfortable with.
Social isolation is when the child emotionally disconnects from others altogether and does not have healthy or supportive interactions, whether in person or via Zoom.
If your child has not been having regular interactions with others and does not request for these interactions, they are not getting the socialization needed for healthy development.
Yes, we do need to be safe with the people in our child’s lives, but we can be safe without isolating. If your child does not want to engage virtually with a long-time friend or even to spend time with their friends, they are not okay and need more support.
3. They are struggling a lot with changes.
We have all gone through some major changes at one point or another—especially the youth in our society.
One thing about young people is that they are extremely resilient by nature. They adapt to their circumstances to survive and often to thrive.
If your child is not adjusting to these changes in a healthy way, your child needs support.
Some youth do struggle with building resiliency, especially when faced with impossible circumstances, such as distance learning during a pandemic.
And here is the thing: you as parents should not be putting the entire weight of your child’s mental health on your shoulders.
Let me say that again.
You, as parents, SHOULD NOT BE PUTTING THE ENTIRE WEIGHT OF YOUR CHILD’S MENTAL HEALTH ON YOUR SHOULDERS!
We were never meant to raise children alone. Not in caveman days. Not today.
Children grow healthy and strong, both physically and mentally, when they are raised in a community with other people. With people who can help to build their strengths into your child, teaching them skills to manage the different challenges they face in life.
You are not the only one who should be helping your child through these changes.
If they are struggling a lot with the changes, they are facing, and you are also struggling with adjusting to how unpredictable life can be when parenting, your kids would benefit greatly from more support.
Now, you may be wondering:
How can therapy help my child?
There are many different ways counseling can help your child with the issues discussed above.
If your child is struggling with acting out behaviors, a therapist can work with your child to find healthy and helpful ways to express the emotions that are too big to control.
If your child is isolating from peers, a therapist can help your child learn to identify and express what they are experiencing and then how to reach out for help and support in a way that enhances relationships.
If your child is struggling with the changes, a therapist can help your child learn different techniques to build their resiliency.
A therapist can also provide you with education and support in how to respond to your child in ways that bring you closer together rather than pull you apart.
Sending your child to therapy when they need help DOES NOT mean you are a failure as a parent.
In fact, what you are doing is teaching your child that we are not meant to always figure it out on our way. That it is okay to reach out for help from people who know how to help. And that you love them, even when they are struggling with what they are going through.
You are a good parent, and you love your child! No matter what they are struggling with.
And you don’t have to do this parenting thing alone.