When Your Child May Need Counseling
It is never easy for parents to admit that their child may have an emotional problem, such as anxiety or depression, and could benefit from counseling. If your child had a physical illness, like diabetes, tests would clearly reveal that medical treatment was necessary to safeguard his or her health. Emotional problems, on the other hand, cannot be detected with a simple laboratory test. What’s more, because the pain is internal and not overtly visible, the damaging effects can be easily overlooked or minimized.
Here in Fairfield County, parents work hard to provide their children with a high quality education and enriching activities. Given all these advantages, It can be difficult to acknowledge that their children can be struggling emotionally. Parents grappling with their own concerns, such as aging parents or providing for their families in a competitive economy, may perceive the lives of their children as carefree. It can be difficult to imagine the many social, academic and family stresses that a child is bombarded with daily. The teen years bring added challenges as children deal with puberty, struggle with their identify and where they fit in, and face added tensions when they start the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Parents who grew up in families where emotions were openly discussed and psychotherapy was an acceptable option may be amenable to counseling for their children. Parents raised in homes in which emotions where not discussed, especially with people outside the family, may view going to a psychotherapist as a violation of family privacy. In addition, parents who as kids were urged to “suck it up” may treat their own children the same way. They may have difficulty empathizing with a child’s emotional pain, and may view going to a psychotherapist as a sign of weakness. Like their own parents, they may worry that sending a child to therapy may be seen as a negative reflection on their parenting.
Regardless of your background, bringing a youngster to counseling may feel uncomfortable. As a parent, you may feel angry, frustrated and guilty that your attempts to help your child have failed. You may fear that you are an inadequate parent, feel embarrassed that your child needs therapy, and be worried that you will be blamed for your child’s difficulties. You may also be upset that your child is willing to confide in another adult and may reveal family secrets.
While these concerns are understandable, this doesn’t mean that they are accurate. As a parent, if you are aware of your worries you will be able to discuss them, work through them, and not allow them to prevent you from obtaining help for your child. Consider that while many adults grew up at a time when there was a stigma surrounding mental health issues, today’s youth have grown up in a different environment. In the media and at school, children are encouraged to discuss their troubles with trusted adults.
If the thought of psychotherapy creates discomfort, consider the possible costs of not seeking treatment. Depression, for instance, is one of the most common disorders facing adolescents. Studies indicate that one in eight adolescents may experience depression, but that only about 30 percent of those suffering are receiving treatment. Left untreated, depressed teens are at higher risk of academic and social problems, low self-esteem, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injurious behavior, reckless behaviors and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Fortunately, disorders common in children and teens, such as depression and anxiety, are treatable, especially when caught early. One of the goals of psychotherapy is to help youngsters develop healthy coping skills to manage their problems so that they can get back on track. Another goal is to open lines of communication between parents and their child. To help strengthen parent-child relationships, family sessions or sessions with just the parents are typically a part of treatment.
It often can be easier for youngsters to open up to someone who is not their parent. Children can be very protective of their parents and may not want to burden them with their problems. Teens also can be struggling with concerns that they prefer to keep private from parents. Sometimes children sense that something is wrong but do not really know what is upsetting them or have the words to describe their feelings. With the support and guidance of a psychotherapist, youngsters may be able to speak more freely about what is troubling them. Once they are aware of what is bothering them, they will be better able to find solutions.
Parenting is a tough job, as is growing up. It takes courage to know when professional help is needed.