Probably not. I could end this blog right here, but let me explain what I mean.
Aside from those quintessential major life events that spur an adult to see a therapist (such as a death, divorce, major illness, or disability) most parents do not have an established threshold for taking their child to a professional psychotherapist. There is no fever of 103 that most parents recognize as a significant enough problem that should trigger a call to a professional.
When your child struggles with an emotional or behavioral problem, the options are essentially as follows:
1. Do nothing. Hope the problem goes away on its own. Many problems do.
2. Learn all you can and enlist yourself and other family as the primary agent of change.
3. Take your child to a physician.
4. Take your child to a psychotherapist.
5. All of the above. Well, except #1.
It is surprising that the following fact is surprising to some parents: your child can experience any of the mental health problems and psychospiritual crises as an adult. However, children and adolescents tend to manifest their crises quite differently. Children often lack the vocabulary to express their feelings; because most adults’ “Child-ese” tends to be rusty, they often misinterpret symptoms or miss them altogether. With depression, for example whereas an adult would display sadness and lack of energy, a child might display irritability or complain of stomachaches.
A child’s mental-emotional-behavioral-psychospiritual (there are several descriptors that would work) health is not something to take lightly. Warning signs evolve with a child’s age. Jeanette Raymond, a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles, shared an age-based warning signs list of what parents should keep an eye out for:
As Jeanette Raymond stated, “If you’re alarmed by changing behaviors, consider seeking therapy for your child”. Remember, all human beings experience suffering; the fact that your child will suffer emotionally shouldn’t necessarily alarm you. Sometimes this is a normal, healthy, even necessary function of growth.
However, when you believe you are ill-equipped to be your child’s primary agent of change or if you struggle to decide whether your child’s unique suffering and manifestation of it is normal, that is when to seek professional help.
Please don’t ignore your instincts; usually they are right. Please don’t seek a professional who believes that emotional and behavioral symptoms are caused primarily by biological forces; their cures will produce infinitely more suffering and for far longer.
Therapy with a skilled psychotherapist allows you some insight or an “inside scoop” on what might be happening for your child. You can differentiate between normal and abnormal, healthy suffering and unhealthy suffering. Early intervention can be key to long term, successful recovery and true healings. For your child who is struggling, therapy can enhance their development and help them feel heard. The technical term for this is love. For parents, skilled psychotherapy can provide clarity, support and assistance during times of uncertainty and upset.
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