Although we like to think of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions as something that only adults experience, the truth is that these problems do not have an age limit, and they can affect children as well.
Good mental health starts in infancy. In fact, many of the issues we experience as adults are caused by something that happened in our childhood, was not addressed in time, and developed into something more complex as the years passed. According to NHS data, the rates of mental health conditions among the youth has been rising steadily since 2017, so that, in 2020, 16% of children aged 5-16 were diagnosed with a mental health disorder. What's more, 50% of mental health problems start by age 14, and a whopping 70% of children fail to receive the appropriate treatment in time.
As adults, we tend to be nostalgic about childhood and think of it as a time when we didn't have any worries, but experts point out that young people's lives aren't that careless. Exam stress, bullying, peer pressure, family conflicts, all these things can affect a child's mental wellbeing, cause low self-esteem, and lead to problems like anxiety and depression. That's why it's important to start a conversation about mental health as early as possible and encourage your child to seek therapy.
Due to the recent physical distancing guidelines, online therapy has become quite popular, and studies have shown that this particular format may be more appealing than conventional therapy to children.
Up to a certain point, tantrums, mood swings and disobeying the rules are normal in children, but, as a parent, it's important to monitor your child's behaviour and take action when something seems off. That may not always be easy, especially if both parents have a busy lifestyle, and children themselves can hide certain feelings because they're afraid or embarrassed.
Here are a few signs that your child may need to talk to a professional therapist:
Why should your child go to therapy when mom and dad are there?
While the parents' love and support are essential for a child's emotional balance, there may be situations when children feel more comfortable discussing their emotions with someone else. Besides, even if you always have your child's best interests at heart and want them to overcome whatever they're going through, you may not know exactly how to help. Meanwhile, a therapist will use approved, child-appropriate techniques to come to the root of the problem and help children develop healthy coping skills.
If you're sceptical about the medium by which these sessions take place (online, instead of in-person), research actually shows that online therapy sessions have several key benefits:
Regular therapy sessions can help your child:
To achieve this, the therapist will use a variety of methods, such as talking, problem-solving exercises, play-based therapy, and creative activities.
It's important to keep in mind that when a child is struggling, things may not get better on their own – even if, to us, the reason why they feel sad or angry might not seem that serious. Children see the world with different eyes, and they need our support to find their strength and develop healthy thinking patterns.
Therapy sessions are not one-size-fits-all for adults, and they’re not one-size-fits-all for children.
Depending on your concerns, the child’s age, and their symptoms, the therapist will choose the appropriate therapy format and technique, and you can rest assured that the methods employed are specifically tailored to the needs of children. While talk therapy may be involved, the therapist can also engage your child in play-based exercises, or use art therapy to help them better express their feelings. The therapist will always have a friendly demeanour and make sure that the child feels comfortable during the sessions.
Before the first session, the therapist may want to have an initial discussion with you to have an overview of your child’s background, the challenges they are facing, family dynamics, history of trauma, and other factors that may influence their mental health.
As the parent, you will play a crucial role in the child’s therapy and you will receive updates regarding progress. Needless to say, if at any point you have feedback, questions about your child’s situation, or any concerns about their wellbeing, the therapist will address them.
The approach that the therapist will follow depends on your child's age, the challenges they face, and the intensity of their symptoms. Also, depending on their age, you may be asked to join the session or not. No matter the case, talking to your child about therapy with patience and warmth will help them be more receptive to the sessions and value mental health. Keep in mind that your child needs time to process what happens during therapy so, to help them not be overwhelmed, schedule online therapy when they're free and don't have to do their homework or attend classes afterwards. One the session is over, the therapist may ask you to do some activities to strengthen what the child has learned, so you should try to be present and make time for that, even if it's just for a few minutes.
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