Children need their parents to understand them. By the time a child is 5 years old, they should understand and obey most rules. If they have persistent emotional reactions to gentle discipline like time-outs, or frequently show aggression, parents should consider help. Also, if a child’s behaviour disrupts the household to the extent that the parents are constantly exhausted, it is time for consultation.
Sometimes the secret to resolving a discipline problem is not in changing how the child behaves, but rather in learning new ways to interact with her. Uncomplicated behaviour problems, such as tantrums thrown by a 2 year old can be resolved therapeutically. Child therapy session does not involve lying on the couch. Typically, at first, the counsellor will ask questions to both the child and the parents, observe how they interact with each other, and then screen her for development problems or mental health disorders that may need special treatment.
Many parents may have watched their child wrestle with anxiety, depression and other challenges. The following are the signs to seek help:
- When the child is endangering herself or threatening to harm herself.
- When other children are unhappy or upset or frightened by a child’s behaviour.
- When the child’s behaviour is interfering with her daily life or the family life.
- When disagreements about how to handle a child’s problems put a strain on the parents’ marriage or partnership.
- When the parents do not know how to handle the situation.
- Learning or attention problems
- Behavioural problems like excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders.
- Mood swings like happy one minute, upset the next.
- Problems in transitions like relocation, separation or divorce.
- Bereavement issues.
Although the terms counselling and therapy are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between psychotherapy and psychological counselling. Counselling focuses on specific issues like addiction or stress management. Psychotherapy focuses on a broader range of issues including a person’s patterns of thinking and behaviour.
Children (0 to 3 years) could benefit from seeing a clinical psychologist if there is a significant delay in achieving developmental milestone such as walking, talking and potty training, and other concerns like autism or other developmental disorders. Therapy can help children develop problem solving skills. Parents as well as children can benefit from therapists to cope with stress and a variety of emotional and behavioural issues.