By Galina Olivera-Celdran, PhD, LPCS, LCAS
Every child experiences occasional problems at home or at school. It could be a conflict with a teacher over turning homework in too late; a fight with a sibling over sharing their favorite toy; a disagreement with a parent over limiting their TV time. Moving, changing schools, or facing any new situation might result in your child temporarily experiencing sadness, fear or anger. In cases when these reactions become severe and prolonged, Agape Christian Counseling recommends seeking professional therapy if your child experiences the following:
- Emotional distress that disrupts daily functioning or interferes with the achievement of age- appropriate developmental milestones. The signs of distress may include sadness, tearfulness, mood swings, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, change in appetite, insomnia, increased sleepiness or school failure. Usually, this distress follows a significant life event such as a death of a family member, friend, or pet; divorce or a move; abuse; trauma; a parent leaving on military deployment; or a major illness in the family.
- Difficulties that interfere with scheduled family or school activities. For example, your child’s exaggerated fears about going to school or separating from you cause you to be late for work, miss important meetings, or even miss an entire day of work. In other instances, your child’s inattentiveness, hyperactivity or impulsivity at home or school lead to difficulties with completing assignments, following directions, or making good decisions.
- Serious medical problems that regularly disrupt your child’s normal routine. Counseling can help your child develop coping skills to deal with his or her unique situation. You may also need help to understand how to best support your child.
- Symptoms or behaviors that are severe or potentially life threatening. This would include situations in which a child is experiencing false auditory or visual sensations, setting fires, assaulting others, or seems severely depressed and/or makes remarks about committing suicide.
Most of the time you can help your child cope with problems without seeking professional help. However, if your efforts do not seem to make a difference and your child’s problems persist, therapeutic intervention is recommended. Counseling will help your child discuss or “play out” their problems and develop necessary skills to resolve or cope with them. Counseling also provides a place for you as a parent to address concerns, develop better parenting skills and helps make your participation in your child’s treatment process more effective and meaningful.