The thought of childhood reminds me of learning to ride a bike, watching cartoons, playing board games, going on play dates, sleep overs, and above all having grandparents to spoil you. Childhood is supposed to be a carefree time, full of fun and excitement for every child.
Unfortunately, some children experience difficulties very early in life and need help. Some common challenges are school stress, mood swings, bullying, peer pressure, lack of motivation, poor academic performance, social anxiety, family issues particularly if there’s a major transition, such as a divorce, move, serious illness or loss of a family member. These difficulties may lead to emotional distress disrupting daily functioning, overwhelming the child or interfering with the achievement of age-appropriate milestones.
Each child reacts differently to different issues in their lives. Children might not have the ability to understand, share or adequately express their feelings. This is when the need to seek psychological support arises. Parents react in varied ways when faced with the idea that their child needs psychological support. Some may tend to feel guilty and blame themselves for their child’s problem whereas others are unsure of the right time to seek professional help for their child
Some common signs that a child may benefit from seeing a counsellor include:
• Behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, fearful)
• Significant drop in grades and motivation to excel
• Missing deadlines in school & excessive school absenteeism
• Episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
• Social withdrawal or isolation
• Being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
• Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Sudden changes in appetite (particularly in adolescents)
• Insomnia or increased sleepiness
• Mood swings (e.g., excited at one minute, upset the next)
• Increase in physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
• Signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use
• Problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
• Bereavement issues
• Custody evaluations
• Experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events
• Developmental delay in speech, language, or toilet training (younger children)
• Learning or Attention problems (such as ADHD)
• Bedwetting or eating disorders
Few of these signs are fairly common and are seen in most children at some point; but if there are multiple signs, if these signs are frequent, become extreme or have been there for an extended period of time, then it might probably indicate a need to see a counsellor. Confusion about this may lead to delays, resulting in smaller issues becoming bigger. As the child gets older, the complexity of situations increases and things might get tougher for them.
Counsellors and psychologists are trained to provide support to you and your child in a safe and non-judgmental environment using various techniques. Some effective therapies that the therapist may use with your child is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Mindfulness or various forms of Expressive Therapy (Sand, Art, Play or Drama Therapy).
By recognizing the problems and seeking help early on, parents can help their child and the entire family moves through the tough times towards happier, healthier times.
Written by: Vinti Mittal Director & Counsellor SACAC Counselling