Are you worried about your child? Trust your instincts.
Parents know their children better than their teachers, their doctors, their friends, and often better than children know themselves. When a parent senses that something is off, usually it starts out with a general sense that the child “just isn’t acting like him/herself.” It is important to take that gut feeling seriously.
Families seek out child counseling for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there is concern that a child may be depressed or anxious, or maybe they are getting into trouble at school. Parents may not know what has caused their child’s behavior to change. They may wonder if the child is just seeking attention.
Where to start if you are considering child counseling
Parents’ instincts about their children are usually right. If something feels off, it probably is. Even though parental instinct is sharp, the root of the matter may not be what you think it is.
The best place to start is to have a conversation with your child. This can be done very casually and will vary immensely depending on the age of your child and the issue in concern.
We recommend asking him or her how everything is going in a general way and then pay close attention to the response. Even if the answer you receive is, “Everything is fine”, it’s okay to gently probe a little. Trust your gut here. Notice the words, general tone and mood.
This conversation itself may help you learn more about what is going on, and in most cases it will be a solvable problem not requiring counseling. If your concerns continue or worsen after speaking with your child, there are still many options prior to bringing him or her in for an evaluation.
As with any important decision parents make for their children, from choosing a car seat to a school district, the first step is research.
Speaking to a therapist can help parents decide whether or not to have their child evaluated. You can schedule a phone conversation or a meeting to interview the clinician and learn more about the process. Sometimes parents come in for parenting consultation without bringing their child in.
Won’t my child be embarrassed?
If you decide to bring your child in for evaluation after your consultation, remember to keep a light positive tone. Children follow their parents’ lead. If the parent treats therapy like something shameful or embarrassing, the child will feel this way, too. But most kids will be relieved that their parents have noticed something is wrong.
If parents talk about therapy like it is a natural and good thing to do, most children will be glad to go and receive help.
Will he/she even open up to a stranger?
Child counseling provides a safe space for the child to talk about his/her feelings without worrying about judgment. The therapist will not seem like a stranger for long, but can become another helpful adult in the child’s life just like a teacher or coach.
Main Line Counseling Partners Can Help
Our child specialists know how to evaluate children without them knowing that they are being assessed. We have the crucial balance of warmth, playfulness, and comfort, as well as advanced training in family therapy, child psychology and normal and abnormal child development. Working with children is an art that is mastered with years of experience sitting down and speaking with children as well as keeping current research and methods.
We have a child psychologist on staff who provides parent advocacy services for school-based issues in addition to behavioral assessment to determine whether support services are indicated.
For more information, read a blogger’s story of teen depression, or consult our related pages on ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Dr. Meghan Prato is our child psychologist. Please use this link to schedule a phone consultation with her to discuss the specifics of your situation.