How to Help Your Child: Emotional and Behavioral Concerns
The most common reason that children are referred to therapists is a behavior problem. A child may be displaying aggressive behavior or having trouble concentrating in school/suffering from learning problems (due to ADHD or other issues). Other children may be diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.
Concerns to Watch for in Kids
Parents and teachers are key in observing the child and noticing possible concerns. Early intervention for the child and family can make a big difference. Sometimes the problems present earlier, but parents do not realize until they cause a crisis in the middle school years. You may want to consider a consultation if you notice your child:
- is highly emotional (cries often, can’t sleep/has nightmares, disturbed by excessive worries)
- lacks confidence (says things like “I’m ugly/fat/stupid”)
- doesn’t obey or listen (more than occasionally/in a disruptive way)
- can’t sit and pay attention for a reasonable time for his/her age
- is socially isolated, can’t make or maintain friends (when a 4-5 year old can’t make social connections this can be an early indicator of ADHD as the child may find it hard to function in a social setting due to impulsivity)
- has study/learning issues
Child and Family Therapy Techniques
I combine several effective therapy styles and techniques when working with children and families. Projective testing is a key way that I identify the underlying issues, which helps improve therapy’s effectiveness and speeds up the healing process. Since the family is so integrated, projective testing and the work we do together often reveal issues within the family system. I encourage parents to be involved with the therapy process so I can observe the family’s interactions and communication patterns. With children and families, play therapy and storytelling are great tools for identifying subconscious issues and working through them.
Play therapy uses different forms of play (sand box play, drawing, etc.) to communicate with and help children resolve psychosocial problems. Through play, children can express their feelings and experiences through a natural, self-guided process. It can be used to resolve trauma, stress and behavioral issues. The Chinese Ministry of Education has recognized the importance of play therapy, so now school counselors are equipped with sand boxes and toys to carry out the therapy
Training for children and parents, cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy can also be helpful in managing a range of concerns and building healthier coping techniques.
Learning Disorders/Problems in School
Study and learning issues are common reasons a child is referred to a therapist. Teachers will often identify these concerns in their daily interaction with the children. Unfortunately, even though they identify the issues, they may have few resources to help.
There are real challenges in the learning environment today. Kids often don’t seem to have the motivation towards learning and don’t respect and listen to their teachers. Sometimes there are underlying issues such as extremely busy working parents who spend a lot of money on the child and hire teachers to help, but leave the child feeling the parents are absent. This is one of the many examples where I find projective testing helpful. Children may be displaying learning or behavior problems but we need to find this root cause/their subconscious feelings in order to properly help.
There are also many students who suffer from ADHD, which is very challenging in the classroom environment. Additionally, children with Asperger’s Syndrome face social difficulties which can affect learning in the school setting.
Third Culture/Adjustment Issues
Another area I specialize in is cultural adjustment and other issues for third culture kids (TCK is a term referring to kids who are raised outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their developing years). It is not uncommon for them to face depression and identity crisis. I can assist these kids with workshops and trainings especially developed to help them overcome the specific challenges they face and provide them with tools to adapt to their unique situation.
Claire Lin is a child and family therapist who also works as a school counselor. She has been involved in meetings with officials on the needs of schoolchildren and the benefits of play therapy. If you have concerns about any of these issues in your child, please contact Body & Soul to make an appointment for a consultation. Early intervention can give your child the best chances of succeeding and overcoming any challenges.