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How Do I Know if My Child Needs Counseling?

By Rachel Martin, MA, AMFT and Marté J. Matthews, MA, LMFT

For so many of us, knowing when and how to help our children is the hardest part about parenting. When we notice our kids struggling, all of the “helpful” advice we’ve heard over the years comes barging in. Other parents share their opinions: “Just wait it out. They’ll grow out of it.” or “Don’t let your child do that! They need to learn right from wrong.” “You’re just being overly protective. Kids have to learn on their own.” Or “How they behave now tells you a lot about what kind of person they’ll become. If I were you, I’d fix that now.” Self-doubt starts creeping in. We begin to think that it’s our fault for not doing or saying the “right” thing as parents. Will this unpleasant behavior ever change? Do we as parents just have to adjust and accept how things are? Family life becomes less about thriving and more about “dealing with it.” Unfortunately, many parents feel alone and isolated in dealing with their child’s issues. Do we really need family therapy?

As therapists, we often hear from parents when family life has hit a breaking point. Parents have been doing and trying their best, sometimes for years, to help their child as they struggle behaviorally, emotionally, socially and academically. They bought and read the parenting books, talked with teachers, pediatricians and friends about their child’s struggles. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of years of difficulty and struggle.

Here at Child & Family Counseling Group we believe that child therapy, family therapy or parent behavioral training can help families. As a parent, how do you know when it’s time to make that call?

Here are a few signs that it is time to reach out for help:

  1. You suspect or know that your child or teen is physically in danger, either from someone else, or if a child or teen is hurting themselves or anyone else

  2. Your child’s behavior has either changed dramatically in a short amount of time (acting out, withdrawing, losing confidence, etc.), or has been a worsening problem for months.

  3. Your child or teen’s behavior continues to worsen despite your best efforts. You’ve tried, but what you’re trying isn’t helping enough.

  4. If your child or teen’s sleep habits or eating habits have changed, or they don’t enjoy things they used to really like to do.

  5. When you’re feeling frustrated. Maybe your child’s behavior is a point of contention with your spouse.

  6. Your child’s behavior is causing problems at home, at school, socially or in public.

  7. A trusted person (friend, pediatrician, teacher, etc.) has recommended therapy.

  8. Your child has received a diagnosis such as anxiety or ADHD.

  9. You’re not sure if things are bad enough to need therapy, but something needs to change.

If any of these apply to your situation, it’s worth your time to call. Some parents find it easier to first approach their pediatrician with their concerns. Many medical offices have referrals to help parents find the right therapist for their child’s issues.

Sometimes a therapist can reassure you that the behaviors are developmental and suggest a few things the parents can try. On the other hand, a therapist can help you and your child find the right tools and skills to help you both begin to thrive and enjoy each other again. Here at CFCG we offer an initial phone consultation to match you with one of our therapists, or help with a referral to an organization if we aren’t a perfect fit. It’s worth the call now. Don’t wait until your family has hit rock bottom.

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