If I’ve succeeded in getting you to read this article despite the title, thank you. Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room - therapy is not for ‘crazy’ kids. Therapists help with things as simple as fussy eating habits. Going to a therapist is not bad. Therapy means your child is building mental fortitude and healing from circumstances beyond their and your control. Therapy is normal and a medical history of having undergone counselling in childhood doesn’t make one’s future bleak. It actually puts them on the right track, if anything. Phew!
We spend a lot of time as parents doing everything we can to protect our children. Despite this, children can sometimes find themselves struggling mentally. It’s a counsellor and therapist’s job then to help them come into their own.
Before we drill the list of signs that indicate your child needs therapy, I need you to breathe. Therapy is not the end of the world. Even if you can relate to some symptoms on this list, it doesn’t always mean the child needs therapy. It can also be temporary fussiness which should ideally go away within two weeks. If it doesn’t, that’s when you dial up a child counsellor. Let’s take a look at some common symptoms:
1) Changes in eating or sleeping patterns: Sleeping and eating too much or too little is a red flag signalling depression, anxiety or even an eating disorder.
2) Destructive Behaviours: If your child is engaging in destructive behaviours like violence or self-destructive behaviours like alcoholism, drug abuse and self-harm, it’s means something is going seriously wrong.
3) Disruptive Behaviour: If your child's behaviour is disrupting your family or getting them in trouble at school, it’s a sign. Many children express emotions through negative behaviours like talking back, acting out when mentally stressed.
4) Social Isolation: Social withdrawal or isolation from peers, declining invitations or deleting social media accounts are concerns, especially if this behaviour is a big shift from their usual personality.
5) Extreme Feelings of Sadness or Worry: Pay attention if your child seems unusually anxious, sad or irritable for an extended period of time and it’s getting in the way of their ability to do things they otherwise enjoy doing.
6) Regression: It is common for kids to regress after major life events like the birth of a new sibling, a move or parents’ divorce. However, regressions such as bedwetting, excessive fearfulness, tantrums and clinginess unrelated to a change may be the sign of an issue.
7) Increased Physical Complaints: Mental health issues in kids may sometimes manifest as physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches. Once a natural cause is ruled out, you can ascertain it as a symptom of something going wrong in the mind.
8) Talking About Death Frequently: It is normal for kids to explore the concept of death after the loss of a pet or family member but constantly talking about death warrants attention. Talking about suicide, self-harm or thoughts about killing other people very often is unhealthy.
Of course, you don’t always have to wait for a crisis to seek a therapist. Sometimes it’s nice to get an outside perspective on the typical, everyday problems of growing up.