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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Should Parents Seek Professional Help for Their Children?

As children develop, they will inevitably encounter difficulties. These struggles provide opportunities for growth, learning, and building character. However, when the problems build and intensify, you may start to wonder if it is time to ask for help. It can be hard to know when it’s time to make the call! Below are a few factors to consider if you’re thinking about calling a mental health professional but aren’t sure about the decision.

1. Family Impact: When a child is struggling, it affects the entire family. Occasional ups and downs are a part of life, but if there is a pattern or severity to the problem, it will impact everyone. If you’ve noticed that the family is responding to the severity or frequency of the problems, it may be time to ask for help.

2. Your Child’s Feelings: When problems persist, it takes a toll on the child. Think about the last time you were repeatedly unsuccessful at something. Now imagine it happened daily and you were judged on this skill. This can be similar to how your child feels if they are struggling at school and this can translate to inappropriate expressions of frustration, declining confidence, and negative predictions about future success in school. Intervening early can provide an outlet for these feelings and help to correct inaccurate or negative beliefs.

3. Explore your Expectations: Have you always thought of therapy as a long term process reserved for severe mental illness? It may be time to challenge this attitude. Many mental health professionals offer a variety of services, including parent coaching, assessment, and short or long term therapy. Parent coaching involves helping parents try different parenting strategies, assessment provides feedback about options that will support the family, and therapy can greatly vary in length and intensity to meet your individual needs.

The bottom line is that it’s an incredible strength to be able to ask for help when it is needed. We teach our children to use the supports around them, and we can lead by example if we are brave enough to reach out ourselves. 

Emily Herber is a child and family therapist at the Center for Psychological Services.
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