All parents worry about their child’s well-being, but it can be harder to address challenges that you can’t always see. If your child is struggling mentally or emotionally, you may be asking yourself, Should my child get counseling? It can be a difficult decision. Here’s what you can do.
Should My Child Get Counseling? Signs to Look For
If your child is in need of counseling, going sooner will benefit them more. While there are no negative consequences to getting counseling, your child’s mood or behavior may worsen if their situation remains the same. If you’ve noticed any two of the following changes or symptoms of mental or emotional distress, talk to your child about getting individual or family counseling.
1. Changes at School or With Friends
All children and teens go through changes in their lives. However, these changes are generally gradual, and sudden changes can be a cause for concern. If your child is normally outgoing and enjoys social activities, but they suddenly withdraw and show no interest, it’s important to take note. If your child normally gets good grades and does well in school, but their grades suddenly drop or they stop doing homework, this is a sign they may need extra help.
Your child may be dismissive towards their friends if they’ve had a fight, and this may get better with time. Problems at school might be due to a difficult class or subject. However, it can also be a sign that your child is distracted, they’ve lost self-esteem, or they’re struggling with difficult emotions. If this is the case, your child should get counseling.
2. Noticeable Changes in Your Child’s Behavior
Even as your child grows and their unique personality develops, you know what is normal behavior and what isn’t. Again, while gradual changes are normal, sudden changes may be cause for concern. Look for the following:
- Noticeable changes in appetite
- Noticeable changes in sleep
- Disinterest in activities they used to enjoy
- Angry outbursts
- Truancy or persistent lateness
- Expressions of sadness or hopelessness
3. Bruises or Marks
Day to day, we all get some bruises or scratches. This is especially true for children involved in sports. However, if you repeatedly notice odd bruises, scratches or cuts on your child, this is a cause for concern. This may be evidence of childhood depression, self-harm, or your child may be being bullied or abused. Your child might not be able to explain the marks, or they may lie about where they came from. You might also notice odd clothing choices, such as wearing long sleeves or long pants in the summertime.
4. Difficult Life Events for Children
Sudden changes or struggles in a child’s life can cause mental and emotional distress. If these events occur, parents should watch their child carefully for other signs that something is wrong. Sometimes, children adjust to changes or negative events in a healthy way. Other times, these events may bring about other warning signs we’ve previously mentioned.
If any of the following has occurred in your child’s life, whether recent or not, it can cause mental or emotional distress.
- Moving to a new school or new home
- Death of a friend or relative
- Addiction in the family
5. Family History
Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and several other disorders show genetic links. This means, if one family member has a disorder, it is more likely that another person in the family will also have it, or a similar disorder. While it is far from certain that a child will develop a disorder because of their family history, this factor should be considered. A child with a family history of depression, for example, is more likely to show symptoms of depression if difficult events occur, like those mentioned in the previous point.
6. Outside Diagnosis or Recommendation
In some cases, a teacher, nurse, school counselor, your family doctor, or another adult close to your family may make a diagnosis or recommendation about your child’s mental or emotional state. If this happens, your child should get counseling from a professional child psychologist, so you can see whether or not this assessment is accurate. If medication is involved, this is especially important.
A trained, experienced child psychologist can assess your child using testing tools that have undergone rigorous study. These tests are usually answer- and behavior-based, so they are not frightening or invasive. Since they are quantitative and qualitative measurement tools, these tests can more accurately determine whether or not your child fits the description of a particular diagnosis, such as ADD, autism, childhood anxiety, or something else.
I Think My Child Should Get Counseling. What Do I Do Now?
If two of the above situations sound familiar to you, you may decide that your child should get counseling. What do you do now?
Talk to Your Child
In some cases, you may decide that your child needs therapy, and they might agree that it would be helpful. In other cases, they may be apprehensive or angry. It is important to emphasize the benefits they can have from therapy. Try to avoid language that expresses judgement, such as “bad behavior” or “problems.” Emphasize that the therapist is a third party that they can talk to and express feelings safely.
Talk to Your Family
If you and your partner are both involved in your child’s life, you should discuss this decision with your partner as well. If another family member or friend is active in your child’s life, discuss the decision with them as well. This will help you and the rest of your family, as well as your child, feel better about the decision.
Find a Professional
Look in your area for a professional counselor who has experience working with children. Ask about their experience, types of therapy they provide, and tell them why you think your child should get counseling. With a consultation, you might talk with the counselor one-on-one yourself, or you might introduce your child as well. This way, you can find an experienced professional who will be a good fit for you and your child.
Counseling can be beneficial at any age, and helpful in addressing all types of obstacles. If you’re concerned that your child is not processing emotions in a healthy way, not making friends or socializing, having difficulties learning, or having other issues, counseling can help. To learn more about counseling in and around Taylor, Michigan and Bloomfield Hills, schedule a consultation today.
Michigan Counseling Centers has locations in Taylor and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. We work with children and families to find a counseling strategy and action plan that is tested and effective for solving many childhood and family dynamic issues.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about our pricing and how we help. During the consultation, we will discuss your child’s need for counseling and determine whether we are a good fit for your needs.