Could Your Child Benefit From Therapy?
● By Hood Magazine
There is a brightly painted sign right outside the gates of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It says “Happiest Place on Earth.” Roaming through the park you will see laughing faces, sticky smiles and sparkling eyes. However, in the midst of all this joy you also see sweaty crying children, exhausted parents, and possibly a misplaced child, or two. Not everyone is “happy.”
This can resemble parenthood. Caring for children often consists of rainbow sky experiences followed by dismal rains of frustration. Sometimes the rain continues to pour. Maybe you have or know a child stuck in a troubling situation and dealing with painful emotions and/or negative behaviors. These can be perplexing situations. How should a parent respond?
Parents thinking about therapy for their child frequently ask me several relevant questions. “Are my child’s behaviors typical for his/her age and development? How do I know if this is just a “phase” that my child might outgrow?” Such questions are worthy of discussion with a mental health professional experienced in providing child therapy. It can be challenging for parents to differentiate typical misbehavior and emotional presentations from those that may need special interventions.
According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, “Four million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school and with peers.” Only 20% of children actually receive the mental health services they need in a given year. This indicates a significant gap between children who need services and those that obtain them. (The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness, May, 2006)
Children do progress through phases and stages as they grow and develop. Some problems can be short term and stop as quickly as they start. Other troubling behaviors are typical when changes take place. For example, a two year old engaging in short term increased physical aggression when a new sibling is born is understandable. Other behaviors are more concerning. A child who enrolls in a new school and continues to complain of having no friends and increasingly isolates in spite of parental and school support may be experiencing significant adjustment or social difficulties. An experienced therapist can help you sort out what is or is not typical behavior for a given situation and developmental stage.
Therapists consider how prevalent and extensive a problem may be. When the child’s difficulty interferes with functioning in multiple settings such as school and home (or significantly in just one setting) it is time for the problem to be addressed by a professional.