Stress and anxiety play a big role in our children’s lives today. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), it is estimated that 1 in 8 children suffers from an anxiety disorder. More worrisome, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 25 percent of teens ages 13-18 will experience some form of anxiety.
This blog is filled with natural tools to address stress and anxiety that can be incredibly effective, including mindfulness, gratitude, optimism, and spending time in nature. But sometimes there comes a point when our children need more help. How do we know when it’s time to find a therapist for our children?
Red Flags To Look For
You know your child best, so trust your gut reaction if something doesn’t seem quite right. If you notice some of these red flags, it may be time to seek professional help:
- Serious decline in school performance
- Strong, excessive worries that cause problems at home or school
- Regressed behavior like bed wetting or separation issues
- Frequent aches and pains, such as headaches or upset stomach
- Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
- Changes in eating habits
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Having low or no energy
- Aggressive behavior, disobedience, or confrontations with authority figures
- Temper tantrums or outbursts of anger
- Showing signs of social isolation, suddenly withdrawing from friends (such as refusing playdates and eating lunch alone)
- If your child’s problems persist across a variety of settings (at home, school, and with peers)
- Thoughts of suicide or of harming themselves or others
- When your other children are unhappy or frightened by their sibling’s behavior
*Please get immediate assistance if you think your child may be in danger of harming themselves or someone else. Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Why It’s Important to Seek Professional Help
If our children experience a prolonged or permanent stress response, it can develop into toxic stress. This can cause symptoms that make them feel miserable and fearful, impacting their daily life. Children and teens need therapy when they have problems they can’t cope with alone or after they have tried a few options but are not feeling any better. Sometimes, the whole family may need support while trying to work through a child’s mental health issues. Additionally, medications may be recommended for severe cases. Only an expert will be able to evaluate if medication is necessary and advise which one to try.
Once you notice a problem, don’t delay in seeking help. Experts have found that early treatment generally provides better results.
What Happens In Kids Therapy?
Children can be treated in a variety of settings that range from one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional to family therapy with parents to a group setting with a therapist and the child’s peers who are in a similar situation. Now there are even online options to make kids therapy super convenient.
There are different types of therapy approaches as well. Talk therapy can help change behaviors and may be used in combination with other treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective in helping children learn coping strategies so they can change unhealthy behavior patterns and distorted thinking.
In therapy, kids learn by doing. Younger children may draw, play, or talk to express their feelings. They might play games where they learn how to be patient, use self-control, wait their turn, follow directions, and deal with losing. Older children and teens typically participate in activities that focus on learning ways to develop better coping skills, such as how to talk through their feelings and solve problems. They may also learn relaxation practices like mindfulness, yoga, and breathing exercises.
As children progress and reach milestones, therapists will provide guidance, support, encouragement, and praise. They help kids believe in themselves and find their strengths. Ultimately, therapy helps to build healthier thinking patterns and behavioral habits to address stress and anxiety.
Have you sought child or teen counseling, and how has the experience been?