How do you know when your child is just going through a downcast phase or seems more nervous than usual or if something more significant is brewing? What are the signs of a problem that is significant enough to warrant professional help?
When you seek professional help, the first task is a phone call for a consultation. This doesn’t mean your child will enter therapy, It just means parents meet with the therapist to discuss the current problems and give the therapist your child’s history of development. Then if the therapist thinks it’s best that you don’t handle the problem by yourselves he or she will offer to visit with the child a few times. Only then after this evaluation will a decision be made about the reasons for a recommendation for therapy.
10 Signs That A Professional Consultation Is Warranted
1. If your child has a generally worried disposition and her anxiety seems to be rising because of an event that increased her fears, watch for a few days to see if she calms down after talking to her gently about what is upsetting her. If she calms down but then her anxiety rises again, it’s time for the consultation.
2. Anxiety breeds on itself so early intervention is important. Feeling anxious makes one more anxious, whereas the idea you will be helped gives you hope that your suffering can be abated which reduces anxiety.
3. Sometimes your child will ask you to get you help. Then after you learn more about your child’s thoughts, this is a definite yes to seeking professional help. Your child knows his emotions are feeling overwhelming and he’s clearly stating what he needs.
4. Does your child have certain obsessive habits such as eating in a certain way all the time, keeping things in a specific order or she will panic, sticking steadfastly to certain routines or other ways of keeping herself feeling collected emotionally. When these habits seems to restrict her activities or interfere with her general functioning, help is needed.
5. Is your child becoming withdrawn? Is she staying by herself too often, not wanting to play with friends? Is she not finding pleasure in the usual pursuits that she enjoys? Can she talk about if something is preoccupying her or she is worried about something? If her actions can’t be explained, professional help may be needed especially if this demeanor seems to last a few weeks.
6. Is your normally active child acting more jittery than usual ? Is she usually organized and seems to be forgetting things more and more? Do you find that she has trouble paying attention when you talk with her which isn’t typical? Ask her what’s on her mind. Perhaps she’ll be forthright about what’s bothering her and you can help her with it or perhaps you’ll decide you need parental guidance to get her through a rough patch.
7. Is your child oversleeping or under sleeping outside of normal limits without any obvious reasons like events she’s been to that have kept her out late? Is she having trouble falling asleep or waking up several times during the night? Once again, try and talk to her about what might be on her mind. If it seems significant, seek professional support.
8. Is your child overeating or avoiding eating her usual amount. Are the changes long lasting and significantly different than her usual patterns? After a medical check-up, consider if her weight fits the normal percentile for her height and age. If not, try to encourage a more normal eating pattern in a gentle way. If the changes persist, seek professional help.
9. Has your generally cheerful child become chronically irritable and angry? Can she articulate what is bothering her? If she can, you ,may decide this is beyond your help alone. If she can’t she may need a professional to engage her in what is going on in her mind to lead to these emotions.
10. Is your child telling you about long-term fears that don’t go away after some reassuring talks. Are they interfering with her enjoyment of everyday life and almost always on her mind? Reduce her suffering by seeking professional help.
Early intervention is usually the best advice before anxieties or potential depression deepen. You can learn a lot from a single consultation that may guide you sufficiently or your child may benefit from psychotherapy. Hoping your child will just grow out of their pain is generally not a good idea. Observe and listen to your child closely and you will make the right decision.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.