Will Counseling for My Children Solve All of Our Problems?
Counseling for children exists for a reason. Being a child can be difficult, and so can being a parent. Struggles and stress happen. Not yet having developed the necessary skills to effectively problem solve, some kids act out disruptively and inadvertently worsen their struggles in what becomes a vicious cycle. Many times, parents are at a loss for what to do to help their child and to reduce stress and chaos at home. All hope is not lost. Counseling for children helps both kids and families overcome problems and enjoy life once again.
Can it solve all the problems in the family? Counseling can make a big, positive difference, but it does have limitations. Let’s explore what it can and can’t do.
How Counseling for Children Can Improve Lives
Sometimes, kids have a hard time dealing with problems at home, school, or in various activities they’re involved in. Problem behaviors are often a signal that a child needs help. Not only do they lack effective problem-solving skills, kids also don’t have the words to talk about in detail what’s bothering them. Until they develop skills and tools that work, many kids do what they’ve always done: communicate distress through behavior (think of infants who cry to signal needs or toddlers who throw tantrums when frustrated). Older children with behavior problems are doing the same thing, just differently.
Counselors who work with children relate to them in an age-appropriate way to assist them in developing the skills and tools they need to handle the stressors in their lives. Counseling for children can help with a wide range of problems, such as:
- General problems where they spend their time (home, school, activities, etc.)
- Parents’ divorce
- Routine changes stemming from the birth or adoption of a sibling
- Sibling arguing/fighting
- General conflict at home
- Substance use in the home
- Refusal to listen or cooperate at home, school, elsewhere, or everywhere
- Recurring problems with routines such as morning, bedtime, or homework
- Bullying at school (whether your child is bullied or is bullying)
- Difficulty making and keeping friends
In child therapy, children will work to develop effective ways to communicate. They build other life skills, too, like problem-solving strategies to identify, understand, and deal with challenges; cooperation abilities; ways to positively express emotions; and other tools for getting along in their world. With better communication skills, behavior improvements typically follow.
Counseling can make a positive difference in the lives of children and families, but it isn’t a panacea. It has limits.
Counseling for Children Can’t Solve All Problems—Limitations of Child Therapy
Kids gain many life skills in counseling that can help them now and as they continue to grow. Their new skills help them get along better in their families and at school with teachers and peers. Counselors help them develop positive coping skills, but they can’t remove certain problems the child faces. Counseling won’t stop a divorce, for example, or remove a teacher a child doesn’t like. Nor can it force a coach to give a kid more playing time or make it so that they are invited to every birthday party. Counseling for children helps them handle negative situations, but it can’t make problems themselves disappear.
Counseling can help many children, but it isn’t helpful for all kids. If a child has a disruptive, impulse-control, or conduct disorder like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), intermittent explosive disorder, or conduct disorder (CD), counseling doesn’t provide sufficient treatment as a stand-alone approach. Also, some neurodevelopment disorders like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or learning disorders need treatments other than counseling alone.
Another limitation is the lack of support from home or school. Without it, child behavior counseling won’t be as successful as it could be. It’s important that parents and, ideally, teachers work with the therapist and child as a team. When everyone is on the same page and discipline approaches are consistent, there is a much better chance that the child’s behavior will improve.
One reason support from home and school is needed is the setting. Child counseling for behavior is done in an office. Then, a child leaves this artificial setting muted from outside problems and re-enters the “real” world. Kids can have difficulty transferring learned skills from counseling to the more chaotic and stimulating outside world. New behaviors take time to solidify with families and at school, so patience and understanding are important.
Kids, parents, families, and schools can benefit from counseling for children. Realistic expectations and support make the outcome even more positive.
Peterson, T. (2019, August 8). Will Counseling for My Children Solve All of Our Problems?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/child-therapy/will-counseling-for-my-children-solve-all-of-our-problems