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Children in Therapy: Yea or Nay?

A mental health consultant with offices in the New York area offers advice for parents who are considering whether they should send their child to therapy.

Family at TherapyI spoke to a mom recently who has a daughter that is struggling with anxiety about going to school. The girl had been having issues with her friends and seemed more introverted than usual. The family had never been to therapy and wondered if it would help or hurt the situation. The mom seemed awfully concerned about her daughter, but was also worried about the possibility that therapy could make the situation worse. She wanted my opinion as to how she should handle the situation. Needless to say, I conveyed that speaking with someone about her daughter’s anxiety was the right choice.

Children who are suffering with anxiety and having trouble with their daily activities can benefit tremendously from the proper guidance and support from a trained psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist depending upon what their individual needs are.

When a child has a stomach-ache or his throat hurts, doesn’t it make a parent feel better to go to the pediatrician’s office and get it checked out? Even if it turns out to be nothing, you feel relieved to know that the belly ache was just gas and the strep culture was negative and there is nothing to worry about. It’s the same thing when it comes to taking your child for therapy. Being proactive and giving your child a safe place to talk about his feelings and learn how to manage them is extremely beneficial.

Opening Up—a Process

Ask the ExpertsWhen should I seek professional help for my anxious child?

All children experience some anxiety. Occasional worry, apprehension, and fear when a child is faced with a new situation is very normal. When a child’s anxiety is inhibiting her from doing everyday activities, and lasts for weeks or months at a time, causing her physical distress (i.e. head- aches, nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, sleep issues) it is time for parents to speak to a professional who can assist their child. —Stefanie Weiss

Have you ever heard the expression, “things get worse before they get better”? Initially when sharing what is bothering you or your child, you may feel exposed, thinking: ‘Why did I even bring this up in the first place? It would have gone away on its own!’ But usually those feelings don’t go away. Living with unhappiness and sadness is uncomfortable and unnecessary. Children need to be comfortable talking about what is bothering them so you can work together to make things better.

Sometimes telling Mom or Dad isn’t so easy! You may be thinking: ‘It’s me…my child can tell me anything.’ Many times, though, that is not the case. Children, especially as they reach adolescence, may be hiding things that they would feel more comfortable talking to a neutral party about.

Kids find it very helpful when speaking to someone who has experience dealing with other kids that have similar problems. It’s a relief to hear that they aren’t the only ones feeling the way they do. Hearing about positive outcomes and solutions makes children hopeful that they can get to a better place, too.

Family Sessions

Many times parents disagree about how they should handle a situation with their child. Dad may be the strict one, while Mom may be the softy (or vice versa), so a division is formed that is often felt by their child. It can be very difficult on a marriage when this happens. When a family goes to a therapist, that third party is giving a professional opinion based on the child’s needs, which helps Mom and Dad to learn to be on the same page. This generally makes things in the home much more manageable.

Things suddenly come up in life. A divorce, an argument, death, a problem at school, or with a friend. You may find yourself suddenly in a position where you wish you had a therapist to call and turn to—someone who knows you and someone you trust. Having this person on speed dial is very handy!

Yes, at first it is difficult to muster up the courage to make that initial phone call, but once your appointment is made, you and your child are finally on the road to feeling better because you are going to get the help your family truly needs.

Stefanie Weiss is a mental health consultant with offices in Manhattan and Syosset, and the founder of askStefanie, a concierge service providing organization, information, and doctor selection to families whose children, adolescents, and teens struggle with anxiety, OCD, ADHD, or PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep). She is a mom to three children, ages 11, 9, and 6.

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