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Posted: July 22, 2014 by Kaleigh Doncheck
Starting therapy for your child can be a difficult, emotional decision for parents. Many parents worry that the therapist will judge their parenting style or that their children may not want to attend sessions. If you are wondering whether or not therapy would be beneficial for your child or teen, here are some indicators to keep an eye out for as you make your decision:
Significant changes in mood or behavior: Is your child usually easygoing and happy, but has recently become withdrawn or irritable? Everyone goes through periods of feeling down or seeming "moody," but if your child's mood seems to have dramatically changed, it might be a sign that something is wrong.
They ask to talk to someone: If your child or teen asks to see a therapist, help them find one that is an appropriate fit. It doesn't reflect negatively on you as a parent to have your child in therapy. In fact, it means that you are getting your child the help they need.
Your family has experienced recent changes: This may include divorce, a step-parent moving in, adoption, a death in the family, or geographic relocation. These events can be very stressful to children. If they seem to be having a difficult time coping, or their negative behavior seems to be connected to these events, consider finding a therapist. Change is hard for everyone. Sometimes it can help to be proactive and find a family therapist to help your entire family through significant life changes.
Your child or teen's behavior prevents them (or you) from living a normal life: Sometimes parents come to me on the brink of divorce due in part to the stress of dealing with their child's disruptive behavior. If everyone in your family is "walking on eggshells" around your child to avoid a blow-up, it may be time to seek help. Similarly, if your child is constantly in trouble at school or appears to have few or no friends, this may be a sign that your child could benefit from therapy.
Your child or teen has experienced a traumatic event: This can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse. It may also include exposure to violence or severe bullying. Being a witness to domestic violence, even if they were not harmed themselves, can also be very traumatic for children.
Your child or teen is self-harming or has expressed thoughts of death or suicide: These are among the most serious reasons for therapy and require immediate intervention. Any talk of suicide or self-harm should be taken seriously. Forms of self-harm can include intentionally scratching, burning, or cutting anywhere on their own body. Self-harm can be very dangerous, even life-threatening, so seek help even if it only happens once. Do not dismiss these incidents as "attention-seeking". Call 911 if your child is in immediate danger.
Choosing to begin therapy is a big step. Be sure to take the time to find a therapist that is a good fit for both you and your child. You should feel comfortable being honest with your child's therapist and they should share information about your child's progress with you regularly or include you in some sessions. With the right help, you should see improvement in your child's behavior and your relationship.
Kaleigh Doncheck is a therapist who works with children, teens, couples and families to help them get the most out of their relationships. Visit www.familytherapypdx.com to learn more.
Tags: relationship and family