Does My Child Need Counseling?

“I just got another call from school.  This time, it’s not the teacher, but the school social worker.  My daughter had another meltdown in school and she’s concerned.  I’m exhausted, frustrated, and feeling judged.  She’s so young, won’t she just grow out of this?”

“Things at school are totally fine, but when my son gets home from school, it’s like a tornado.  I’m never sure when the next storm will hit, but the whole family better brace themselves when it does.  He goes from zero to sixty in about a millisecond, sometimes I just take the easy route because I can’t fight every battle.  Have I totally messed my kid up?”

“We got divorced so long ago, I thought my kid would be over it.  She’s so angry but she doesn’t want to talk to anyone.  I tried counseling before, for the whole family, and it was a battle to go and didn’t do much good.  I don’t want to drag her to talk to someone, what’s the point if she’s resistant?”

These are all common story lines that I hear from parents coming to seek help.  The truth is, the first step is often the bravest one you’ll take as a parent.  Reaching out for help can be a very vulnerable experience, and given that, how do you know whether or not your family needs to reach out?

My first word of advice would be the well-known idiom — “trust your gut”.

(Did you know that scientists are now discovering that there is probably a direct connection between our gut and our mind?  More on this in a future post…)

The first time that I meet with parents, I always reassure them that they are the first and foremost best professional of their child.  You know your child best.  I won’t pretend to.  If your instinct is telling you that your child may need some help with their behavior, their social skills, or their emotional management, my guess would be that you are correct.

(By the way, I give parents the same piece of advice…trust your gut…when it comes to finding the right therapist for their family.  The connection between therapist and family is of utmost importance!)

That being said, there are some indications that your child may be experiencing something more than the typical challenges when it comes to social, emotional, and behavioral development.  Here are just a few…

  • Has your child experienced a change in the family or traumatic life event that seems to be causing emotional / behavioral conflict after some time has passed?
  • Does your child have an overall temperament of sadness, anxiousness, or irritability?
  • Have you noticed a sudden change in moodiness, behavior, or emotionality?
  • Do you often cancel plans due your child’s mood for the day?
  • Do you often avoid going out in public places / socializing because you are concerned that your child will have difficulty?
  • Have you noticed changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or a change in development that is unexpected?
  • Does your child struggle to transition to new places, people, or schedules more than expected?
  • Has your child’s school or daycare indicated that they have concerns?
  • Are you spending the majority of your energy disciplining one child in your family more than others to the point of concern?
  • Has parenting become such a chore that you have a hard time finding enjoyment in your children anymore?
  • Have friends and neighbors stopped inviting you over because of your child’s aggressive behaviors?
  • Do you feel like you are constantly giving your child negative attention because he/she can’t seem to follow directions or listen?
  • Has your child asked you to take them to talk to someone like a social worker or counselor?

As I write these, I want to acknowledge that I could probably answer “yes” to many if not all of these as some point in time for all of my own children and I know many parents could do the same.  Children are children, and this list is not meant to diagnose, identify, nor pathologize anything that a family or child may be experiencing.  At the same time, if reading this list or a certain item on this list is giving that gut of yours a funny feeling…perhaps listen, and feel free to call for a free phone consultation to see if Nurturing Village can help!