It can be a difficult decision to take your child to see a therapist. If you’ve been wondering whether your child or teen could benefit from therapy, then keep reading for some things to keep in mind when considering the mental health of your child.
“Do children/teens REALLY need a therapist?”
According to the CDC and the National Institute of Mental Health, we are seeing a steady rise in the number of children and teens presenting with mental health concerns, particularly anxiety. As these numbers increase, so do several concurrent issues, such as behavior problems or a negative impact on academic performance. While research shows that 1 in 6 children, ages 2-8, is diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, only about 53-78% of those children and teens are receiving treatment for them. As early diagnosis and treatment can drastically affect the lives of these children and their families, it is important to recognize that therapy is a valuable asset to many children and teens.
“Shouldn’t my child just come to me with problems?”
Ultimately, yes! But sometimes it’s just not that easy. There are many factors that can hinder youth from talking to their parents/guardians about what’s going on emotionally. Maybe they’re afraid of disappointing their family if they admit they are struggling, or maybe they have internalized the idea that love and acceptance is based on good behavior. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just hard to talk about difficult subjects with your family! Whatever the cause, we need to understand that sometimes children just need someone objective and knowledgeable to talk through things. A therapist can provide that safe place to talk and hopefully help strengthen the relationship between the child and their caregiver to help facilitate those difficult conversations in the future.
“What if they want to talk to me about something I’m not sure I can handle?
Just as it can be difficult for your children to talk to you about mental health concerns, it can be just as difficult for you to discuss them as well. Too often, we underestimate just how much our children can handle when it comes to difficult topics such as depression and anxiety, or how to cope with the loss of a loved one. So we stop short, or we skirt the topic because we’re uncomfortable talking to them due to our own issues. Whatever the reason, the reality is it can be hard to discuss these things with children! As stated in the last point, a therapist can provide that objective, knowledgeable space for a family to process difficult topics together.
“Okay, but… am I a bad parent if I don’t know how to help my child?”
First off, knowing that your child needs help beyond what you can provide and taking them to a professional who can provide that help IS knowing how to help your child! When you think about it, there are many times where we turn to the experts when we aren’t sure of the best course of action with our children. When they struggle in school, we talk to their teachers. When they have health issues, we take them to the doctor. Mental health is no different. When children are struggling with their emotional or mental health, the therapist is an expert who will be able to find underlying causes as well as help the child find the coping skills they need to work through it.
Of course, there are many factors to consider when you are making the decision to have your child see a therapist, but you don’t have to do it alone! If you have any questions or concerns that you would like to discuss, feel free to give us a call at (816) 287-0252 to discuss options for your child’s mental health care. We’d love to help you navigate this decision as best we can!