Have you noticed some unpleasant changes occurring and you don’t know what to do about it?
When your child changes in unpredictable ways, whether abruptly or over time, it can be scary for everyone. Sometimes specific events can trigger changes in a child that overwhelm his or her ability to cope in a healthy way. Other times children are responding to circumstances that have slowly built up in their environment. When a child loses the ability to respond effectively, they may resort to a number of distressing coping mechanisms.
You may notice that your child has withdrawn from things he or she used to enjoy. Some children experience uncontrollable outbursts or become easily overwhelmed by things they used to be able to handle. Others struggle to pay attention or keep up in school, or may even become aggressive. We often don’t think of physical symptoms as psychological problems, but when children are under stress they can develop headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and more.
Situational stressors aren’t the only types of difficulties children are learning to navigate. There are many inherent challenges that all children must face while growing up. The more support children have to face these challenges, the more likely they are to develop resilience and enjoy their lives.
Every child needs to learn how to cope with big feelings, get along with others, and function in school. Some kids may also need to adjust to the addition of new babies at home, a new school or new city, the serious illness or loss of a loved one, or the separation, divorce, or remarriage of parents. In addition, children today are increasingly faced with more academic pressure – and even some things we adults worry about, like frightening world events and an uncertain economic climate.
That’s a lot for a developing child to deal with. It’s also why things don’t always go as planned.
Of course, there are also plenty of amazing moments and milestones in a child’s development. There’s so much joy, excitement, potential, and accomplishment that come with being a child. Every child should be able to enjoy his or her childhood.
But, when significant, unpleasant changes emerge in your child’s behavior, merely waiting for it to pass is rarely the best option, for you or your child.
In counseling, I meet children on their level and give them the space to express their feelings about whatever is happening in their lives. Many children who visit a counselor are understandably nervous about it, so my first goal is to make them feel comfortable. I do this by explaining that I work for them, that I think they are the experts at what it is like to live their lives, and that I’d like them to teach me what it is like to be them.
When a child feels safe and truly heard, amazing things happen. We then explore the things that are causing them distress. This is so powerful for children, because many of them often feel like they have to “protect” their parents from their difficult feelings. A part of this process is helping your child identify what he or she is feeling, and developing a vocabulary for it if they don’t know how to put it into words. From there, we work together to uncover their strengths and then use those strengths to develop coping skills that will work for them. My main goal is to empower your child and help him or her build confidence.
I use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in my work. A main focus of CBT is teaching children the connections between the way they think, feel, and act. CBT helps children understand that the way we perceive certain situations is not always accurate, and when we aren’t thinking clearly, we tend to feel bad and then act in ways that are not helpful to us. CBT empowers kids by giving them the tools to understand and correct their thinking about specific situations. After some time in counseling, you may notice that your child is more communicative, has more insight, and demonstrates more self-awareness or self-control.
If you’ve found yourself wondering whether it’s time to seek counseling for your child, I would love to be able to support you in any way I can. Trust your instincts. No one knows your child better than you do. With the right guidance, a better life for your child is totally possible. Sometimes the best thing you could do for your child is to seek help from a trained counselor. Parenting is difficult. There’s no reason you have to do it alone.
It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child…that’s never been more true than it is today.