Counseling for Children: How to Help Your Kids
Why is counseling for children important? According to the Center for Disease Control, “1 in 6 children aged 2–8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.”
Anxiety, depression, effects of trauma, and developmental disorders are a few of the many things that children today are trying to manage. Heightened emotions, uncertainty about how to balance feelings, and the self-inflicted and assumed pressure to make parents proud loom over their young minds.
Childhood is where an individual sets the tone for their future. It is the beginning of their story; one of which should set the pace for a beautiful unfolding of a hopeful future.
AnxietyAnxiety can become an all-consuming thought process of worry and doubt; one of which, if left unaddressed, can set the stage for a very stressful life. A deep root of anxiety could lead to depression or further behavioral or social setbacks.
Anxiety can hold children back from dreaming big, reaching for the stars, and can make them feel like they are stuck in a dark cave, unable to find the light. At this time in their lives, their biggest concerns should be more about finishing their homework, deciding which pizza topping they prefer, and choosing what song they want to sing in the school talent show.
Children’s thoughts should not be consumed by feelings of social paralysis, the pressure to receive a college scholarship or concern about their parent’s finances. While it is important to teach children life lessons, it is equally important to let them be children – to find the beauty in playing in the mud, to enjoy pretending, and to dream big about becoming a doctor, an astronaut, or a prima-ballerina.
Anxiety can be self-inflicted and is not necessarily a symptom of their parent’s expectations. It is important to know that counseling for kids can be beneficial to children who are struggling with feelings of anxiety.
Knowing how to channel, work through, and express their feelings is the beginning of dealing with anxiety. Most often, children want to make others proud and put pressure on themselves.
Parents can keep the conversation at home going by asking children how they are doing. Ask specific questions instead of “how was your day?” Support children by encouraging them to do their best but let them know that you do not expect perfection. If your child is struggling with anxiety, know that it does not mean it is a symptom of poor parenting, but a response to their surroundings, personality, and societal pressures.
Today’s society is one that brings new complications to the era of raising children. In an age of social media, cell phones at an early age, and desire for likes and follows, it can be an all-consuming war to want to fit in and feel accepted. Children deal with bullying from their peers or see bullying occur and work earnestly to avoid the mockery that fills school halls and sports teams today.
It is important to educate children on the realities of bullying and to speak up when they witness it. It is also important to realize that some children struggling internally result to bullying so they can feel in control. That is why counseling can be so beneficial for children – it helps them to work through any emotional battles that may be waging war within them.
Trauma is an overlooked element in a child’s developing mind. It is a misconception that they are not aware of major life events and changes. What is often lacking is their ability to ask for help and process the events.
They internalize more than most people are aware of. Children deal with a variety of trauma, which can include bullying, physical/emotional abuse, death of a loved one, financial stress, violence, medical conditions, or fear of war/acts of terrorism.
It is important to be aware of life changes and talk to your children about what is going on. Ask them how they are doing and how they are feeling.
It is important to provide a place of safety for them, watch for behavioral changes, and continue checking in on them. If a child is dealing with a traumatic event, childhood trauma counseling is an excellent resource to help the child and family know how to deal with and process the events.
While it is normal for children to deal with major life changes, it is equally important to know that each child processes it differently. A child who moves regularly due to a parent’s job or a child who has a sick sibling may produce different feelings for different people.
Be on the lookout for a change in behavior, sudden withdrawal, increased anxiety, or a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed. These may all be warning signs that anxiety may be creeping in.
How to Help
Be aware of shifts in personality.
Know that there may be an internal struggle of some sort if a child who is regularly mild and even-tempered suddenly becomes angry and lashes out. In turn, if a child is regularly outgoing becomes withdrawn, it may be a clue that something else is going on. If a child is suddenly fearful of everything or jumps when you try to hug them, this may be a symptom of something else going on. Always be aware of your child, their personality, and changes in it.
Ask specific questions.
It can be all too easy to ask children questions in passing. Adults must also be good communicators and listen with their ears and eyes. A child’s body language can tell you a lot about how they are doing. If they are suddenly quiet, slumped over, and withdrawn, it may be a good time to ask more specific questions. Ask them how school is going or how their friends are doing. Ask if they see bullying or if they are bullied.Educating children on matters like bullying, terrorism (if it is occurring and showing on the news) and talking to them about the death of a loved one are all key components to helping them process events. Help them find their voice by talking on their level. Ask them how they feel about it. Let them know that you are available to talk.
Words matter; speak life into your child during the high times and the lows times. It is important to validate their feelings and create a place of safety. Remind them, when they are consumed by the television coverage of terrorism, that they are safe.
Do the research to know your child and find what makes them feel comforted and at ease. For some young children who are afraid of the dark, for example, they find comfort in sleeping with a specific stuffed animal. Feelings of safety are the key to creating a healthy and positive atmosphere when a child is dealing with anxiety or processing a traumatic event.
Find calming activities to shift their focus.
Children respond well to calming activities when trying to process feelings of anxiety or trauma. A child who is feeling anxious, for example, may find it therapeutic to write in a journal, use playdough to express their internal struggles, or listen and dance to music.
Because every child is unique, it is important to find activities specific to them that will help calm when they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or working to process trauma. Parents can create a “calm box,” for children who struggle with anxiety. A calm box can include a variety of soothing activities and crafts to help them shift the focus from anxious feelings to confident and creative feelings.
Christian Counseling for Children
Counseling for children can help a child who may be experiencing behavioral, social, or developmental disorders. A child therapist can help determine the best route to helping them work through their anxiety, process a traumatic event, work through the processing of feelings from a bullying incident, or find activities to use during times of fear and anxiety.
If you’d like to pursue counseling for children, please contact me or one of the other child therapists in our online counselor directory.
Center of Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
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