Signs Your Child May Need to Talk to a Therapist

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We all want the best for our kids. If our child breaks his arm, we go right to the hospital, but if the same child is expressing anxiety or seems depressed, many parents aren't sure what to do. Just like adults, children go through difficult periods where they need help, guidance, or just someone to listen. Children deal with school stress, bullying, friend drama, grief, and many transitions throughout childhood.

Sometimes children are embarrassed or scared to tell mom or dad that something is wrong, and other times parents are unsure if a problem is fleeting or something more serious. There is lots of help for kids of all ages and no parent should feel alone when it comes to their child's mental health.

Here are some signs that your child should talk to a therapist:

Changing Eating or Sleeping Habits

If your child's eating or sleeping habits have drastically changed, don't ignore it. Sleeping too much or not at all is a red flag and new eating habits may be a sign of an eating disorder.

Engaging in Destructive Behaviors

If your child is engaging in repeated behaviors of destruction, it is important that they talk to a therapist. Self-destructive behaviors include cutting or herself themselves, digging their nails into skin to try to cause pain, or other acts of self-mutilation. Other destructive behaviors include drug or alcohol abuse.

These behaviors are a mask to numb deeper anger, pain or resentment, and the help of a therapist can make a world of difference in these situations.

Extreme Feelings of Sadness or Worry

If a child seems unusually anxious, sad, or irritable for an extended period of time and it is getting in the way of his ability to do things he normally does, it is a good idea to seek help.

Pay attention if your child is crying a lot or excessively worrying.

Behaving Badly

If your child's behavior is disrupting your family or getting him in trouble in school, something more might be going on. Many children express emotions through negative behaviors, such as acting out, talking back to teachers or fighting with friends so before you jump to punish, think about whether talking to someone may be a better solution.

Isolating From Friends

Social withdrawal or isolation from peers is a sign that something may be wrong. This is especially true if this behavior is a big change from their personality.

Regressing

It is common for kids to regress after major life changes, such as the birth of a new sibling, a move, or a divorce between their parents. However, regressions such as bedwetting, excessive fearfulness, tantrums, and clinginess unrelated to a change may be a sign of an issue.

Increased Physical Complaints

Sometimes anxiety and depression in kids take the form of physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. Once you have ruled out any actual medical issues with a doctor, your next step may be a therapist. Some life experiences are inherently difficult, stressful, or emotional, and it would benefit your child if they had a professional outlet to talk to that isn't mom or dad.

Talks About Death Frequently

It is normal for kids to explore the concept of death and talk about it in a curious way, but repeated talk about death and dying is a red flag. Listen for statements about suicide or thoughts about killing other people. Any talk about suicide or killing another person requires immediate help.

Situations When A Therapist Could Help

The following situations include life changes or stressful situations that your child may not have the proper tools to cope with. Adults go to therapy for many of these exact reasons, so it makes sense that a child would be sad, confused, or frustrated and not be able to know proper coping skills and simply need someone to talk to who is not their parent:

  • Management of a serious, acute, or chronic illness
  • Parent getting divorced
  • Having a hard time with a new sibling
  • Moving homes or changing schools
  • Dealing with a deal in the family or a close friend
  • Custody evaluations
  • Therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events

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