For parents, it’s often tough to know when your child needs outside help. There are so many questions: Is it just a phase? Is it normal for his or her age? Am I overreacting? Children and teens can have emotional, academic, or behavioral problems of all kinds and the research says that many people who need help never receive it. It will always be a judgment call, but here are four guidelines to help you know if you should seek counseling for your child or teenager:
1. The problem negatively affects your child’s functioning in school, home, or the community.
2. The problem is causing you or your child significant distress.
3. The problem has not gone away with other efforts, such as changes in parenting strategies, consequences, etc.
4. If the problem does not improve, there is the potential that it could cause negative effects now or later in life, such as academic failure, relationship problems, addiction, and so on.
Also, it’s usually wise to listen to your child if he or she requests outside help. If you read these guidelines and you are still not sure, it may be a good idea to schedule a one-time consultation with a therapist to see if counseling might be indicated. In a later post, we’ll give some guidelines for selecting a good therapist for your child.