Have you ever played Chess? It is a wonderful game that deals with risk, strategy, acumen, and of course the blind side. Chess is a great representation of life in that it teaches us not to be too complacent and risk averse and at the same time not too jeopardous. Every choice we make in the game has consequences both positive and negative. Even the lowest position on the board has the opportunity to traverse the board and become knighted or elevate them in some way.
Chess-like life will throw you curveballs and when it comes to parenting we as parents have to come to accept that our kids will deliver some doozies once in a while. However, at times the issue is so complex and intricate that you may need to bring in an outsider’s perspective into the room to help you sort through the triviality and confront the crux of the issue(s). The question many parents juggle is when is the right time for our child to see a therapist? The following 5 situations may signal the need for counseling services for your child and even for the family as a whole…
When a marriage disintegrates so does the world of the child[ren] involved. Some kids are more psychologically and emotionally resilient than others but even if your child says they are fine it is highly recommended to seek out a professional. The therapist can outline a strategy for coping with the immediate aftermath and managing the transition as difficult decisions are being made [visitation, child support, holiday time, etc.].
2. Mental Health Issues
Many kids struggle with high anxiety, social anxiety, depression, self-harming thoughts, and addictions to technology/video games. In my work I see more and more adolescents/teens escaping life with video games and technology. Unfortunately, this becomes a go-to response especially when things are difficult and thus kids are learning to Fortnite their troubles away instead of engaging and confronting them. An effective counselor can help solidify a diagnosis and work with your child[ren] to give them tools to manage their mental struggles and reinvigorate them to return to a higher level of daily functioning.
3. Learning Issues
Learning disabilities are best caught as early as possible. But even an attentive parent can miss some of the clues. If you suspect your child may have difficulties with dyslexia [learning issue that involves difficulty with reading] or dyscalculia [learning issue with difficulty making sense of numbers or math concepts]. Many times these two learning disabilities are comorbid [happening at the same time] so it is important to have your child tested for both when agreeing to seek professional help. If your child has learning disabilities, address the impact they are having on your child’s academics, but also address the effect they might have on his/her self-image and self-esteem.
4. Social Issues
In my practice, I have seen children and teens who have become withdrawn both at school and home after a significant life change such as immigrating to a new country or moving to a new state or city. Children who were once vibrant, social, intelligent, and engaged can resent their new situation and mourn the losses of their past idyllic life. Uprooting a child from a predictable environment in which they had already established a circle of friends can result in substantial feelings of loss. Although familial issues can also play a role, children and teens can develop social anxiety if they do not feel accepted by their peers. Social anxiety can lead to feeling like an outsider, interfere with academic performance, and overall reduce the quality of life.
5. Traumatic Issues
Issues like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as domestic violence often require professional help. These traumas can burn holes in the emotional, social, cultural, spiritual, and psychological compositions of all involved but especially your kids. The traumas left untreated will only worsen and tear at the fabric of the family’s wellbeing and propel kids/teens into adulthood full of insecurity, fear, loathing, uncertainty, and cynicism. Make sure to check your child’s social media frequently and be on the lookout for any bullying behaviors [either as victim or perpetrator]. Bullying [especially with social media and Youtube] can also fall into the category of the traumatic issue. If bullying is identified as an issue call a conference to meet with your child’s guidance counselor at school and your child’s teacher[s] in order to address the seriousness of the situation and possibly begin treatment for your child with a mental health professional if warranted.
These are all important considerations to reflect on when you are inevitably blind-sided by life and its many twists and turns. I hope that you too as a dad will see the value in seeking outside help when needing to address any unpredictable elements that crop up in daily family life. I also recommend family therapy concurrently with your child’s therapy so that all family members are being heard and validated as they need to be…
Also see: 10 Things Your Son Needs From You
Always remember to tell your child (and yourself) the following each day:
- Believe in yourself
- Love yourself
- You were born for special reasons
- Look for ways to help others today
- Your primary purpose is to discover what your unique talents are (that no one else in the world has)
Dr. Gerald Brown is a therapist practicing in Statesville and Cornelius, North Carolina. He is within a short travel distance from Davidson, Morrisville, Huntersville, and North Charlotte.
If you would like to learn more you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.