Isn’t My Child Too Young for Therapy? (Myth vs. Reality)
As a parent, you want to do everything you can to protect your child from harm and make sure they grow up healthy and happy. You make sure they wear a bike helmet and knee pads, but if they do take a tumble and break an arm, you immediately seek medical attention.
Some “boo-boos” aren’t as noticeable as a broken bone, but these emotional wounds hurt just as bad. If left untreated, these emotional injuries can result in further problems as your child grows. This is where therapy comes in.
“But isn’t my child too young for therapy?” you might be wondering. In my practice, I have seen children as young as three years of age. Trauma and behavioral issues don’t have an age restriction, they can affect a child at any age.
Signs Your Child May Need Therapy
Instead of focusing on the age of the child, it’s better to address the particular problems he or she may be having. As the parent, you know your child best. While a friend or family doctor may tell you your child is just “going through a stage,” you may recognize that something seems… off or not-right. Trust your instincts.
With this in mind, here are some signs that may indicate a problem that may require specialized attention. Your child:
- Is having trouble at school (grades, bullying others, talking back to teachers…)
- Is attempting to injure themselves
- Avoids family functions and ignores friends
- Experiences frequent mood swings and/or extreme emotions (anxiety, angry outbursts)
- Has difficulty concentrating
- Had difficulty sleeping
- Is eating far more or far less than before
This is by no means an exhaustive list but gives an indication of the kinds of behavior that may need addressing.
It is also important to mention that other things can be ruled out before you decide to give therapy a try. For instance, has your child had a full medical work-up recently? Her difficulties at school could be caused by an emotional disturbance, OR they could be caused by poor eyesight. His insomnia could be caused by anxiety, OR it could be the result of a biological issue that is causing him pain. Are you and your partner arguing more? Is your child’s behavior a natural response to an emotional situation at home?
Talk to Your Child About Therapy
While you may be worried your child is too young for therapy, your child may quite like the idea of talking to ‘someone special’ about how they feel. And, at the end of the day, your child is taking cues from you on how to feel about things. If you feel therapy has a certain stigma, your child will feel shame and not want to explore this option. But if you see therapy as beneficial, chances are your child will as well and be open to trying it.
Once you decide to explore treatment options, look for a therapist who specializes in helping very young children. They will most likely put an emphasis on art and play therapy, allowing your child to express themselves in a way that is natural for them.
Be sure to ask as many questions as necessary to select a therapist you feel comfortable with, and speak openly with your child about treatment so they can know what to expect.
If you believe your child may benefit from counseling on Maui and would like to speak about treatment options, please give Keith Scherdt, LMHC a call at 808-280-3474. Mindful Health Counseling in Wailuku, HI can help you with counseling for children, counseling for teens and counseling for adults.