“I wasn’t sure she needed to see a counselor, but …” If you’ve spoken (or even thought) those words, you’re not alone. Nearly every parent who has contacted Care to Change about their son or daughter begins with some variation of that expression of uncertainty.

Parenting is never easy. Admitting that your child may be facing problems that are beyond your skills as a parent can be even tougher. As professional therapists, the simple answer we offer is if you believe your child may benefit from counseling, they probably would. Reaching out to find a counselor to help them isn’t an admission of defeat, it’s demonstrating your love by helping them get the care they need.

What are some of the signs your child should be taking with a professional? For starters, if their behavior has been causing chronic trouble in school, or if it’s creating never-ending disruptions in your family life and relationships, it’s important to get help. And the sooner you get them the help they need, the sooner they’ll be on a path toward healing.

You see, when a child or teen’s behavior becomes disruptive, explosive, or even dangerous, it’s generally a symptom of deeper problems such as anxiety, trauma, and even frustration resulting from a learning problem. Professional counselors are trained to look beyond the behavior to identify the underlying causes, because the behaviors can’t improve until those causes are addressed.

Another common sign of problems involves physical changes. A child may show marked changes in their relationship with food, whether that’s a sudden lack of appetite, purging, or unusual diet changes. Young people grappling with emotional issues may start sleeping much longer than normal. Their attention to personal hygiene may suffer or become an obsession (as in taking several showers a day). Most alarming are behaviors like cutting and similar attempts to harm themselves.

Other warning signs involve significant emotional changes. Some mood swings are a normal part of changes in brain chemistry that accompany childhood and adolescence, but when they become overwhelming and interfere with daily life, something more serious may be occurring. They may suddenly become secretive or break into crying at inappropriate times. Sometimes they’ll isolate themselves from family and friends or begin to engage in risky behaviors that are out of character.

If they appear to be unusually depressed or anxious, that’s a sign they may be dealing with issues they can’t understand or manage. And if they mention suicide or suggest the lives of others would be better if they died, please don’t delay. Always take comments about suicide seriously.

Finally, if your child or teen asks to see a therapist, don’t brush it aside. It takes tremendous courage for a child to admit they need help. While some people might be tempted to dismiss such requests as drama, they’re actually evidence of emotional maturity.

If you’re still not sure your child or teen would benefit from therapy, contact us. We’ll be happy to listen to your concerns and schedule a time for you and your child to sit with one of our counselors who specializes in helping young people. You may discover they really don’t need help, but more often than not, if you suspect there’s a need, you’re probably right.

Podcasts that help:

When is it time for therapy

How to find a therapist

Correcting unacceptable behavior

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