Children and Adolescent Therapy

Help The Adult Your Child Will Become

All Christian parents know Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  “Train up” is the Hebrew word hanak, which means “dedicate, or start off.” And “in the way that he should go” in Hebrew is literally “in his way.”  The proverb literally says, “Start off a child in his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” True. We seldom depart from the path we’re set on as children. This could be a warning if a child is set on the wrong path, or it could be an encouragement if a child is set on the right path. Either way, it tells us that the best way to change the adult is to change the child. What went right or wrong in childhood will show up in adulthood.

This is why you should take childhood or adolescent issues seriously and address them right away.  As children and adolescents grow, they develop in many ways.  Their thinking, mood, and behavioral patterns change as they mature.  When these shifts happen, often parents wonder if the change is normal. That concern is reasonable because children and teens can develop a laundry list of mental health issues, half of which can occur before they turn fourteen. 

 

What Is Normal And What Is Not?

You may be wondering how to tell the difference between normal growing pains and causes for concern. If your child’s behavior matches his or her age and stage of growth, their changes are not something you should worry about.  What are the stages and behaviors that you can expect as your child grows? Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson outlined stages of childhood and adolescence.

Stage One: Infancy.  Infants explore the world to learn what is safe and predictable.  They need attention and comfort from you to help them develop their sense of trust or mistrust.

Stage Two: Early Childhood.  Young children assert independence. They start making choices, which can create defiance, tantrums, and stubbornness.  They also start developing a sense of autonomy, shame, and doubt.

Stage Three: Preschool.  Preschoolers learn about social roles and emotions.  They are active and curious.  They use their imaginations to play.  Your reactions to them impact their behavior and their willingness to act on their own as well as their attitudes about misbehaving.

Stage Four: School Age.  Relationships and schoolwork are important now.  They show a wide range of emotions.  Problems with school or friends can lead to depression or anxiety.  Conditions like ADHD or oppositional behavior may interfere with school or social tasks.

Stage Five: Adolescence.  Teenagers become even more independent, forming their identities by trying new behaviors or roles.  Puberty brings physical and emotional changes.  The parent-teen  relationship can become strained if behaviors go beyond boundaries.  There are emotional highs  and lows, which could lead to anxiety or depression.

Some causes for concern as your child moves through these stages would be:

  • Developmental delay in speech or toilet training

  • Learning, attention, or social skills

  • Behavioral issues such as anger, aggression, acting out

  • Peer problems or relationship difficulties

  • Sadness, tearfulness, or irritability

  • Difficulty regulating mood

  • Changes in appetite or sleep

  • Social withdrawal or isolation

  • Fearful or avoidant behavior

  • Defiant behavior

  • Domestic violence

  • Obsessions or compulsions

  • Bullying

  • Test anxiety

  • Acute or chronic illness

  • Grief and sadness over the death of a loved one or family pet

  • Signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use

  • Adjustment problems after separation, divorce, relocation

  • Trauma including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

  • Self-harm such as cutting or head-banging

  • Talk or thoughts of death or suicide

Many Children And Teens Have Struggles

If your child is struggling with one or more of these issues, you are not alone.  A study out of the University of Michigan found that nearly 7.7 million children and teens in the U.S. have at least one treatable mental health disorder, including depression, anxiety, or ADHD.  1 in 6 children age 2-8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.  35% of teens are dating or in a relationship, and one-third of those are sexually active.  One-third of teenagers in relationships experience abuse from their partner.  Eating disorders affect almost 10% of teenage girls.  17% of high school students drink alcohol before age 13.  39% of high school students have used marijuana at least once. 

The 21st century is a scary and difficult time in which to grow up.  Never before have we seen the pressures that children and teenagers face each day with drugs, sexuality, depression, anxiety, abuse, and other serious issues.  It goes without saying that it is not an easy time to be a parent either.  Starting out your child in the way that he or she should go is hard.  But there is help and there is hope.

Therapy Can Help Your Child Or Adolescent

Therapy works for many of the mental health issues that children and teenagers have.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy that is proven effective at reducing behavior problems such as back-talking, swearing, tantrums, and impulsiveness.  It can also help with anxiety, depression, mood swings, fears, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and suicidal ideation.  It is effective with trauma, grief, bullying, adjusting to divorce or blended family, and other problems.  It is also effective for addressing eating disorders and body-image issues.  Some of our counselors are licensed chemical dependency counselors and specialize in substance abuse and addiction. 

Christian Counseling Associates can be a lifeline for you as parents with only so many tools at your disposal. Our goal is to help each child and teen we see to grow into the man or woman God designed him or her to be.  We help children work through past hurts and issues, and we listen in a non-judgmental way. The counselor will help bring your child or teen back to center. Kids learn to deal with problems at school, at home, or inside of themselves and are equipped to deal with all that the world throws their way.

What Happens In Child Or Adolescent Therapy?

Some types of therapy we do focus on helping your child or teen process feelings and experiences, which can be difficult sometimes, especially for young children.  So, our counselors will use methods to help children express themselves non-verbally, such as play therapy and art therapy.  The therapist might do therapy that involves playing games that teach coping concepts, drawing, building, writing, pretending, doing experiments as well as talking. We also might use EMDR (Eye movement, desensitization, reprocessing), which relies less on talking and can be very helpful with teenagers.

We also might do family therapy where family members do sessions together along with some individual sessions.  Family therapy helps keep the family relationship healthy and helps address changes in the family was children grow and change.  We also offer parenting help to give you sharper skills as a parent.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions, children and teens also learn and practice various strategies for managing their behaviors at home or in school.  You can ask your therapist about his or her techniques when you meet for your free consultation.

Common Objections Kids Have To Therapy

“The counselor will tell my parents everything we talked about.”

Confidentiality is important to everyone, including children and teenagers.  The counseling room is a private space and conversations between counselors are clients, even kids, is confidential.  The counselor will not gang up with the parents against the child or teen.  The counselor will give updates to the parents about things that mom and dad can help with at home, but won’t go into specifics.

 

“I am embarrassed to go to counseling.”

 

If you as parents have used shame or blame or “going to a counselor” as a kind of punishment (“If you don’t stop this, you’re going to have to go to a counselor.”), this response is to be expected.  The child feels like he or she is a bad person and therefore has to go to a counselor.  It’s better to be honest and talk to your child about what has happened and why you need help to talk about your worries and feelings in a safe place, plus it will be fun and the counselor is very nice.

“I’m afraid to be left alone; I want my parents to go with me.”

Yes, you should be involved in your child’s therapy, especially at the beginning while the therapeutic bond is being formed between the child and the therapist.  There are some things you will need to talk with the therapist about as a family, but then, once the child is comfortable with the therapist, there will be things that need to be discussed in private. 

Take The Next Step

To schedule a free consultation with a counselor that specializes in children and adolescents, click the “Schedule Appointment” button below.  Or you can call 972-422-8383.