In the first post, I offered my rationale for writing a Parents’ Guide to the Therapeutic Process with Children.
In this second post I ask why would you as parents call a child therapist? In my experience, it is because troubling behaviors/events reach a threshold of concern, alarm and worry. You might say in essence, “There is a problem. We don’t know what to do. Our child needs help, and we need help helping our child.”
Calling a therapist is an impressive act, because realizing that there are problems takes courage as well the capacity for self-reflection. And it demonstrates your strength of caring for the well-being of your child and your family to recognize that you may not be able to figure it all out on your own.
Why am I emphasizing that asking for help is a signature of strength? Because in my experience, parents frequently don’t recognize and credit themselves with what they have already accomplished in calling attention to the problems and asking for help in addressing them.
Parents’ concerns typically coalesce around behaviors/events/circumstances that are bearing down on the child and the family. Here are some common categories of concern:
- within a family
- a child’s resisting or refusing to comply with expectations – going to bed, getting out of bed in the morning, hygiene, messy room, not doing homework, refusing to do chores, not joining the family at mealtimes, not participating in family activities, etc.
- relational conflicts – with parents and/or siblings, at times conjoined with tensions and angry outburst/intemperate remarks
- reactions to marital conflicts – parents fighting, signaled but unspoken tensions, separation or divorce
- family illness – physical or psychological illness
- death – grieving loss
- economic stress – job loss or transfer, sudden drop in family income
- with school
- academic problems – poor grades, not doing homework
- classroom inattention – not paying attention, talking out of turn, behaviors that distract classmates
- breaking school rules – getting into trouble
- with peers
- limited friendships with peers – problematic social skills, not accurately reading social cues
- aggressive, bullying behavior towards other kids
- being picked on – teased, made fun of
- mental states and cognitive processing issues
- anxiety – on edge, constantly worried that something bad might happen
- low self-esteem – feeling unworthy, less than adequate
- sad, depressed feelings – at times expressing the wish not to be alive or having suicidal thoughts
- problems regulating feelings – often expressed in outbursts of temper, being chronically irritable
- cognitive processing issues – such as attention deficits, dyslexia, inefficiencies is executive processing
The presenting issues often fall into one or more of these categories. However, every individual and family narrative is uniquely rich and complex with endless variations in specific circumstances and wide ranging experiences. These complexities make it all the more fascinating and worthy of thoughtful attention and care.
Once the presenting concerns have been laid out, the journey begins – figuring out and making sense of what is going on, calming the waters and working towards relief from distress and turbulence.
In the next post I am going to frame the core principles that guide the work with a child and the family.
I invite you not only to read my posts but to leave comments. Let me know what you think. Also what issues interest you? What are your questions? I will do my best to respond in a timely way. Please don’t dismiss my requests. I really mean it! Please offer your thoughts and questions.