All kids go through emotional ups and downs from time to time. Bouts of irritability, anger, feeling down in the dumps, trouble with friends and family are all part of life. In truth children have a lot of the same mental health problems as adults do. Some are typical and some issues can become serious if not properly addressed early on. To date, as many as one in five children and adolescents are struggling with an identifiable mental health disorder that requires professional help. So as a parent how do you know if your child is struggling with something more serious? And when should you seek out counseling for your child?
Struggles that are Typical
A certain amount of irritability is normal in children. There will be times when kids may become worried, angry or sad. As they grow children learn and evolve through struggles at home, school and peers. Most often conflicts are a great way for children to become better communicators and learn new skills. So some difficulties in school and home are expected and are basically just growing pains. In most cases when parents are sensitive to their child’s problems, listen and validate their child’s experiences, kids will figure things out on their own.
When to Seek Counseling
At other times normal childhood issues can grow into more serious problems that require intervention from a qualified mental health counselor. The following symptoms indicate it may be time to seek out counseling:
• Constant feelings of sadness or hopelessness
• A loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
• Significant changes in sleep patterns or appetite
• Preferring to be alone rather than with friends or family
• Persistent and excessive worry or fear
• Constant anger, irritability and high reactivity to ordinary situations
• Expressing thoughts hurting self or suicide
• Persistent nightmares or night terrors
• Repetitive self-destructive or injurious behaviors, such hair pulling or cutting
• Hearing voices that aren’t there
• Inability to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions
• Partaking in violent acts such as setting fires or killing animals
Taking the Next Step
For decades there’s been this stigma with counseling treatment: an assumption that if a child needs counseling, there must be something wrong with them, that they will be hospitalized or medicated. That is simply not true. Children like adults often need a mental health “tune-up”. Therapy for kids can be very helpful, especially if a problem is identified before it gets worse. The earlier parents catch troublesome symptoms the better the outcome will be for the child. So whether your kiddo needs some help adjusting to typical growth difficulties or support in dealing with a more serious problem, don’t be afraid to seek help. You and your family will be better off for it.
Westside is currently offering counseling services at our Plainfield and Wheaton clinics. To speak with someone today, click the button below: