Does My Child Need Pediatric Counseling?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated July 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Are you concerned about your child’s mental or emotional health? Maybe you’ve noticed that they seem sad, have begun to act more aggressively, are having trouble focusing, or are withdrawing from their loved ones or interests. No matter your child’s age, growing up can be complicated for many reasons. Working with a licensed child therapist can give you and your child an objective expert’s perspective as you work through any challenges they are facing. Below we’re going to discuss pediatric counseling, signs that your child may benefit from it, and how to obtain it. 

parenting a child with mental health challenges can be hard

What you need to know about pediatric counseling

Children often experience complex emotions that can lead to mental health disorders—and these conditions can occur earlier than you might expect.

In fact, the CDC recently found that one in six children between the ages of two and eight in the United States have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week is celebrated every first week of May. This celebration tends to spread awareness of the importance of children's mental health and attempts to eliminate the stigma surrounding children's mental health issues. A mental health diagnosis is no reflection on you or your parenting skills, nor is it a reflection on your child. It is simply a sign that they may need to develop more skills to cope with life’s challenges. Treatment for children facing these disorders can have a positive effect on their lives.

Children who receive help for mental health concerns often go on to lead healthy and productive adult lives, due in part to the coping skills they can learn from pediatric counseling. Therapists trained in child development can help children work through common challenges, discuss their feelings, and learn how to manage their emotions.

Pediatric counselors are typically specially trained and licensed to work with children and adolescents. After all, children are not yet mentally equipped to understand or know how to cope with anxiety and other feelings for which many adults seek professional help. Licensed child counselors work with children to manage various concerns, such as difficulty coping with trauma, adjusting to divorce or other family changes, body image and self-esteem struggles, and difficulties with peers.

How to know whether counseling is right for your child

If you are unsure whether your child could benefit from pediatric counseling, consider this list of potential risk factors or warning signs. If your child is demonstrating any of these behaviors, you may want to consult a medical or mental health professional. 

  • Increased desire to spend time alone or lack of desire to spend time with family or friends.
  • Sudden decline in school performance.
  • Difficulty concentrating at school or on other tasks.
  • Persistent sadness, sullenness, lack of energy, or hopelessness.
  • Excessive anxiety or stress.
  • A loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Extreme dependency on habitual acts, such as hand washing or making sure doors are locked.
  • Excessive anger or agitation that leads to lashing out.
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits.
  • Difficulty connecting with peers.
  • Withdrawing from life or displaying an unwillingness to open up.

How treatment works in pediatric counseling

Typically, a pediatric counselor tailors a treatment plan to the individual child, considering their age, level of development, personality, behavioral concerns, and more. Then, they'll often set specific treatment goals to ensure that their strategy is helping the child. Depending on your child's needs, their counselor may use talk therapy, play therapy, or group therapy. Each form can be effective, but most often, the child counselor will start with talk therapy to form a connection with the child and ensure they have a clear understanding of how they're feeling.

Child therapists can treat a number of social or emotional challenges that your child is currently dealing with. Some of the most common services include treatments for anxiety, trauma, divorce, and grief. Counselors who specialize in working with kids often use play therapy for children—which usually involves talking to and observing your child while they play with toys or undergo artistic activities—to help children learn how to talk about their feelings.

Even with the very young, psychological treatments can be successful. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven effective method for children as young as three years old. CBT focuses on recognizing and reframing beliefs that contribute to maladaptive behaviors and emotions. For example, if a child is scared that something bad will happen to their parent, using CBT, a children's behavioral therapist can help them learn to respond to those thoughts and tell themselves that those bad things are unlikely to happen.

How you can help your child


It can be difficult to watch your child struggle, especially when they’re experiencing something that you may not be able to help them work through on your own. If you are considering pediatric counseling but want to take steps on your own as well, you can implement some simple changes at home to help your child cope during difficult times. These can include:

Make time to talk

Take the time to sit down and talk with your child. Do your best to be present and listen without judgment or interruption to the struggles they are facing. This can help your child to feel safe, heard, and sort through their own thoughts.

Healthy sleeping habits

Numerous studies have linked sleep issues to mental health challenges in children and adolescents. Encouraging your child to maintain healthy sleeping habits—such as having a bedtime routine, getting enough sleep, and reducing screen use before bedtime—can help them stay mentally and physically healthy.

Daily exercise

Experts have found that regular exercise can help children and adolescents cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and other mental health challenges. Encourage your child to exercise regularly, whether through organized sports, playing outdoors, or simply taking a family walk. You can turn exercise into a pastime that you can enjoy together—for example, hiking, hiking, climbing trees, playing things like badminton or basketball, or jogging. Physical activities can offer additional opportunities for conversation and closeness.

Online therapy for parents

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parenting a child with mental health challenges can be hard

Research shows that online therapy can help parents provide care to children who are living with mental health concerns. In one study, researchers found that online therapy could help parents with children who experienced depression and anxiety implement strategies for managing their symptoms. Participants found that they were able to improve their relationships with their children, reduce family conflict, and improve behavioral concerns.   

Online therapy, both for your child and for you, can make a significant difference in helping you move forward as a healthier, happier family. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp, or its sibling platform TeenCounseling, may be a great fit for your busy family life. Both BetterHelp and TeenCounseling offer flexible, discreet counseling around your schedule. TeenCounseling is designed to provide teenage counseling for adolescents aged 13 to 19. It allows teens to work with a licensed counselor through video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. BetterHelp offers the same customizable service for busy parents like you, so you can work with a licensed counselor whether you’re waiting in a carpool lane or unwinding on your couch after a long day. Here are some reviews from fellow parents about their experiences with BetterHelp therapists.

Therapist reviews

"Dr. Torres is amazing with the things she is doing with my 13-year-old daughter. My daughter has recently been bullied, which caused her to be angry, and lack of motivation skills was 0. No confidence in herself. She would not go anywhere or do anything. When my daughter spoke with Dr. Torres for the first time, a few days later, she picked up herself and started to go out and wanted to do things with me and by herself, she also wants to sign up for dance. I was completely amazed, everyone I spoke to was amazed. I'd also like to add that Dr. Torres is kind, patient, calm, and very warm and friendly to me and my daughter. Every time I tell my daughter Dr. Torres is calling, a big smile comes on her face, it's so wonderful to see that. I know we still have a long journey to go, and I can't wait to see what happens next. I am so glad I signed my daughter up for this. Please keep up the excellent work."

"I am THRILLED with Rachel and with BetterHelp! It is affordable, I am a single mom with 4 kids on a tight budget and a LOT of stress, and this format makes it easy to get help. I LOVE that I can write my feelings to her whenever I am having them, not have to wait a week for the next session. She is very insightful, and I am thankful!"


As a parent, helping your child learn coping mechanisms and skills for life’s challenges can be a struggle for both you and your child. However, you don't have to do it alone. A licensed therapist can help you address complicated emotions regarding parenthood and other concerns. With the right help, you and your child can continue down the path to improve mental health. 

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