As a parent, it can be difficult to determine if your child’s behavior is a normal part of growing up or if it’s a sign of a bigger issue. “Some moodiness, anxiety, and social and school difficulties are expected as kids grow up,” says psychologist Kristen Eastman, PsyD. She calls them bumps in the road.
Along with those bumps, though, come bigger issues that might need more attention, like therapy. If you are here, attempting to find quality information to determine what to do for your child, and proactively parenting, you’re already doing a great job.
While a child’s home environment and the key relationships they have with adult figures can influence their emotional, social, and cognitive development, outside events also impact their lives. This can feel scary for parents who want to protect their kids, and while you may not be able to control everything in your child’s life, learning about available resources will help them cope.
To be clear, children aren’t exempt from mental health problems. The CDC says, 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. While that number isn’t huge, it is likely larger than many people assume. However, there’s no need to panic. Dr. Eastman reassures parents by saying, “You know your child best. If something just doesn’t feel right, trust that instinct. It’s better to go and get something checked out if you’re not sure.” The best defense is offense, basically.
The Benefits of Child Therapy
Child therapy is a great way to help children deal with life’s challenges. It supports a reduction in anxiety and depression, and an increase in self-esteem, social skills, and a strong sense of self. Seeing a specialist allows children to learn how to better regulate emotions and learn about the connection to their behavior, creating the opportunity to better control both healthy feelings and reactions.
Why Is It Needed?
Just like adults, children encounter pressure and problems, sometimes within and sometimes outside of anyone’s control. From academia to friendships and family, kids are not safe from struggle. Unlike adults, they often must rely on others to help them overcome difficulty.
How Does It Work?
A therapist works hard to build a trusting relationship with your child, so they can communicate openly. No matter the type of therapy, a therapist’s primary goal in child therapy sessions is to provide a safe, comfortable space for children to feel understood.
Types of therapy include play therapy, talk therapy, family therapy, parent-child therapy, eye movement desensitization & reprocessing (EMDR, for trauma), and cognitive-behavioral therapy. These can be done in many creative ways, to appeal to your child and their developmental age. For example, many kids like drawing and building or creating, and feel more comfortable working through a session using these types of play as tools.
As the societal stigma surrounding therapy services is shifting, so too should our perception of child therapy. By advocating for our children and their mental health, we are preparing them for a brighter, stronger future, where they are capable of dealing with difficulty in much healthier ways than generations before them.