Does My Child Need Pediatric Counseling?
Updated March 20, 2020
Reviewer Tanya Harell
Have you noticed your child withdrawing or losing interest in the things that they once loved? Maybe you've noticed your child appears sad or more aggressive. No matter the age, growing up can be challenging, and many children struggle throughout the process. If your efforts at home seem to be falling flat, it may be time to get an outside perspective. Working with a pediatric counselor can help your child work through the mental issues they are facing.
Children are not immune to stress or other triggers that can lead to mental issues. In fact, the CDC has found that one in six US children had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Getting help for these children can make a huge difference in their lives, as well as their families. If your child is suffering, it is not a reflection on you or your parenting skills, nor is it a reflection on your child. It is simply a challenge that they need to develop the skills to cope with. The good news is that children who get help for mental issues when they are young often go on to lead healthy and productive lives. This is largely due in part to the coping skills they can learn with pediatric counseling.
What You Need To About Pediatric Counseling
Pediatric counselors are specially trained and licensed to work with children facing a variety of issues and help them cope with and overcome them so that they can achieve their full potential at home, at school, and in relationships. After all, children aren't shielded from stress, anxiety, and other issues that many adults need professional help with. Pediatric counselors work with children of all ages with different problems, such as difficulty coping with a past traumatic event, adjusting to divorced parents, feeling excluded, or unwanted by peers, among others.
Typically, pediatric counselors tailor their treatment to each specific child, taking into account their age, level of development, personality, behavioral issues, and more to make sure that their treatment plan gives them the best chance of success. Then they'll set specific treatment goals to ensure that their strategy is truly helping the child. Depending on your child's needs, their counselor may use one or more of the following techniques: talk therapy, play therapy, or group therapy. Each can be effective, but most often, counselors will start with some form of talk therapy to form a connection with the child and ensure they fully understand how they're feeling.
If you are unsure if your child could benefit from pediatric counseling, this list of potential risk factors or warning signs to watch out for may help.
- 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
- Acting withdrawn from life or an unwillingness to open up
This list isn't all-inclusive and doesn't necessarily mean you need to start a search for a pediatric counselor immediately. However, if your child is exhibiting multiple risk factors or has been experiencing some for an extended period, it may be helpful to consider reaching out to a professional counselor.
Start Pediatric Counseling Young for a More Promising Tomorrow
Many of us face struggles at some point in life. Children are susceptible to similar emotional health issues that plague adults. There are prevalent attitudes that young kids will "grow out" of their problems. However, many adults with a psychiatric disorder first match criteria for diagnosis during childhood. Diagnosis related to oppositionality, ADHD, and impulsivity can remain stable throughout the school years, and children may not grow out of these issues. Even preschoolers can meet the diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders. Children at age 3 who meet criteria for diagnosis are likely to meet criteria for a diagnosis at age 6.
Instead of waiting for a child to grow out of their symptoms, treating childhood mental health problems and even screening preschool-aged people for emotional and behavioral problems can help coordinate critical interventions necessary for their mental health needs. Start working now with the right specialists to address issues when your child's brain is highly responsive to change and treatment.
Stigmatization in Pediatric Counseling
Are you concerned that diagnosing your child will stigmatize them? Your assigned mental health counselor can use diagnostic tools such as the Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment (PAPA), which is designed to give a DSM diagnosis for preschool-aged children. However, there are many debates as to whether it is appropriate to give children so young a mental health diagnosis. Utilizing assessment tools such as the PAPA can help recognize your young child's struggles now so that they have a good chance of overcoming their symptoms and developing into a healthier child and teenager.
Your child's disorder is not their personality type. We need to be able to separate their symptoms from a child's character and give them the help they need. Assessment tools such as the PAPA help to isolate and focus on the symptoms that your child is presenting. This provides an objective and separate look at your child from their illness.
Assessment Tools are also valuable in recording, monitoring, and treating their mental health issues. Such tools used throughout the therapeutic process assess whether your child will benefit from seeking mental health treatment, provide information for diagnosing the issues presented, and increase your understanding, and influence the development of measurable goals to be used during your child's progress.
If your child is given a DSM-V diagnosis, please remember that your child's psychiatric disorder is not because of bad parenting. Certainly, a home environment and parental relationship can affect a psychiatric disorder, but that doesn't mean they cause the disorder. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, and autism have biological roots, as well.
A mental health disorder does not signify that you or your child are weak, and they are not based on willpower to manage these conditions. ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other disorders cause serious dysfunctions and can affect all areas of your child's life. Managing their psychiatric disorder greatly benefits from the right clinician, an appropriate treatment plan which includes your input as a parent to have their health and wellness restored. You, as a parent, are not to blame and in fact, play a pivotal role and giving support and care such as mental health care that is critical to your child's recovery.
Treatment in Pediatric Counseling
These first few years in your child's life are so important when you start to see symptoms. Treatment interventions, even when children are very young, can be successful. Pediatric counselors will utilize different forms of counseling to help treat different types of mental health issues. One type of treatment that is evidenced based is called cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT.
Although children younger than 7 years old do not have the level of cognitive skills for reasoning, verbal expression, autobiographical memory, or self-reflection. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment has been shown and tested for its effectiveness in children as young as 3-6 years old. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing beliefs that contribute to mental health. A skilled therapist who is working with a young child who has never been asked by an adult to do therapy work will be able to engage the young child in cognitive therapy tasks. They will be able to focus on changing the child's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are causing serious issues.
There are many concerns regarding the use of medications and pediatric treatment of childhood mental health disorders. It is important to note that a good psychiatrist will take care of deciding how and when to start a child on medication. Psychiatric illnesses and medication should be taken just as seriously as a child with diabetes or any other chronic health condition.
For instance, a child struggling with a psychiatric disorder may never receive clinical care because their issues may be deemed less obvious than a child who has lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Kids rely on their parents to help give them access to services such as counseling. The potential to make changes in their way of thinking may be higher now than any other age.
Ways to Help Your Child When They Are Struggling
It's never easy to watch your child struggle, especially when it's something that you can't fix. If you have considered pediatric counseling and are still not sure if that is the help your child needs, there are some simple things you can do at home to help them cope with their problems. These suggestions won't solve the issue at hand, but they can help make life a bit easier for your child.
Make Time to Talk
Take the time to sit down to talk with your child and really be present an understanding of the struggles they are currently facing. This can help your child feel heard and can also help them sort through their own thoughts and figure out a solution to their problem.
Healthy Sleeping Habits
Numerous studies have linked sleep issues with mental health issues in children. Make sure that you are encouraging your child to have healthy sleeping habits such as a bedtime routine, getting enough sleep, etc.
Experts have found that regular exercise can help children cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and other mental health issues. Encourage your child to exercise daily, whether it is through organized sports or simply taking a family walk.
BetterHelp Can Help You Take A Proactive Approach
If your child is struggling, taking a proactive approach is often the best option, rather than hoping their struggles go away. One way to do this is to get them the help that they need. This is where counseling comes into play. At this juncture, it may be beneficial for both you as a parent and your child to get counseling. Getting counseling as a parent can help you help with the various issues that affect the family when your child is struggling. BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that can give you the help you need. They can be a great resource for learning more about how to help your child and finding a pediatric counselor. Online counseling is both convenient and confidential. With BetterHelp, you can talk with your licensed counselor via messaging, chat, phone, or video - whatever is easiest for you.
If your child is in their teens, they can also get help with BetterHelp's Teen Counseling. This is an online counseling platform designed specifically for children ages 13 to 19. The counselors are licensed and can help your child work through anxiety, stress, self-esteem, bullying, anger, and other mental challenges. This method of counseling is comfortable for teens, given its online nature. They can communicate with their counselor by exchanging messages, chatting live, speaking on the phone, or even by video. Check out what other parents have to say about their experience with BetterHelp counselors below.
"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!"
Your Child Depends On You
As a parent, helping your child learn the coping mechanisms and skills that they needed to overcome the mental challenges that life presents to them should be a top priority. However, you don't have to do it alone. Start working with a BetterHelp counselor today who can give you the tools to help them through their challenges, give you the necessary resources to work together with a pediatric counselor, or even help you get your teen help with the licensed counselors at Teen Counseling directly. No matter what you're experiencing, there are tools available to help both you and your child be the healthiest you can be.