When to Seek Counseling for your Child

Children are constantly changing and growing. Just as soon as they have begun one stage, they are ready to move on to the next one. This experience of constant change can make it difficult for parents to know when a child is simply going through a stage, or when it is time to seek professional help. Contrary to what some think, many disorders such as Anxiety and Depression do occur in children as well as adults. Individuals who seek therapy for these issues later in life often remark on how these conditions have affected their childhood. Children are clean slates; they are walking, talking opportunities for prevention. That is why it is so important to recognize these signs early so that your child may live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. Remember, just because your child displays one of the symptoms or behaviors in the list below does not mean immediate help is necessary (unless otherwise specified). If more than one of the below symptoms or behaviors below causes marked distress on the family and/or child, interferes with school or home life, and lasts more than a few weeks, it is probably time to reach out for help. Here are some signs that you may want to consider therapy for your child.

Always seek immediate help if your child:

  • Engages in unsafe behavior and/or has expressed thoughts of harming themselves or others

(Younger children) Your child may benefit from evaluation if he or she:

  • Displays sleep disturbances such as sleeping too much, too little, or experiencing reoccurring night terrors.
  • Often expresses excessive worry or fear
  • Displays frequent tantrums
  • Complains of physical ailments, such as a stomach ache, that have no known medical cause
  • Has difficulty making friends or little interest in peers
  • Has difficulty sitting still for even short periods of time\
  • Engages in repetitive behaviors out of fear that something bad might happen

(Adolescents) Your child may benefit from evaluation if he or she:

  • Has lost interest in activities that were previously enjoyable
  • Displays disturbance in sleep: sleeping too much, too little, or having night terrors
  • Self-harms
  • Shows excessive worry about weight and is preoccupied with body image, food, and/or exercise
  • Isolates self from peers and family
  • Uses alcohol or drugs
  • Engages in risky behaviors
  • Expresses thoughts of hopelessness and/or suicide
  • Displays periods of high energy with diminished need for sleep or conversely displays low energy
  • Sees or hears things that are not there

Again, any child may at some point show some of these symptoms or behaviors. What is important to ask yourself as a parent is if these symptoms have persisted for a period of over two weeks and if they are severely impacting the child’s ability to function. Remember though, always seek immediate help if your child expresses thoughts of harming themselves or others. If you, or anyone you know could benefit from evaluation from a counselor, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates Inc. at 708-633-8000 and your child can receive the help he or she deserves.

By: Hayley Nelson

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