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Children and Adolescents

Children and Adolescents

CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

All children and adolescents experience changes and challenges as they move towards adulthood. School, friendships, and working towards greater independence are some of the more predictable challenges that can naturally improve with positive parent support, learning from mistakes, and overall increased maturity. Some life challenges, however, can present long-standing and overwhelming difficulties that do not improve with basic support and time. Divorce, loss of a loved one, persistent social and/or academic problems, or continued difficulty managing mood or anxiety are signs that the child or adolescent may benefit from more structured and specialized support. When a child truly struggles, those struggles can affect the entire family. Counselors at Affective Counseling understand the need to consistently involve the parents or guardians throughout the treatment process. Additionally, counselors provide therapy services to parents who initially seek treatment due to parental communication struggles with children. Effective interventions for children and adolescents include:

  • Play Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Role-playing
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Emotional regulation through breathing techniques and self-soothing skills
  • Mindfulness, meditation, and guided visualization
  • Narrative Therapy (creating custom stories/book/poems) that help children express themselves
  • Parental support

Children of Divorce

Divorce is an unplanned life event that has a major impact on both children and adolescents as individuals and on the family as a whole. Adjusting to a new living environment, transitioning back and forth between parents, and uncertainty about the future can cause children and adolescents to feel less confident in their various life roles. Counseling can help a child to understand his or her experiences, learn how to navigate family transitions, develop coping skills, and confidently adjust to the new family dynamic. Signs that children or adolescents are struggling with divorce and may need additional support include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Avoidance of one or both parents
  • Lack of communication with parents
  • Frequently mentioning the desire for the parents to still be together
  • Anxious thoughts about the future
  • Anger, often directed at peers or siblings, and disproportionate responses to seemingly benign situations
  • Difficulty identifying and expressing what is “bothering” them

School Anxiety/Refusal to attend school:

From time to time, many children and adolescents face anxiety about attending school. Frequent stomach aches or headaches in the mornings, that are not present on the weekends or in the evenings, are the hallmark symptoms of school anxiety. When severe, anxiety can result in consistent refusal to attend school, frequent arguments, engaging in high avoidance behavior, dishonesty, and communication problems. This in turn can place significant strain on the family. Some children and adolescents demonstrate behaviors that are “external”, where they act out aggressively with others, while others suffer from “internal” struggles, such as depression, poor self-esteem, or social anxiety. In either case a child’s fear of attending school can create and sustain maladaptive behaviors that can have long-term negative consequences. Interventions are designed to identify specific fears, work around barriers, create increased confidence and empowerment in the student, and offer concrete and customized guidance to parents and guardians. Additionally, implementation of these interventions create environments and relational patterns that are most likely to result in successful and cooperative school attendance.

Social challenges/bullying

Many children, adolescents, and young adults struggle with daily challenges related to social interactions, forming friendships, and bullying. Younger children sometimes have difficulty expressing their concerns regarding friendships, whereas older adolescents may have developed an intrinsic belief that they are inadequate due to years of perceived or actual social rejection or in response to bullying. It can be heartbreaking to parents or guardians to watch their child struggle to form social bonds, experience loneliness, be rejected by peers, and battle self-doubt and social avoidance. Counseling offers a safe environment for children and adolescents to identify and communicate their fears and internal pain and begin to work towards meaningful solutions. The ultimate goals of counseling are to increase social skills, develop internal and external awareness, improve assertiveness, and ultimately achieve self-acceptance, self-respect and social confidence.

Parenting

Parenting is a moving target, and it’s less about doing it wrong and more about doing it better. That’s where counseling can be a great asset for you and your family. Children do not live in a vacuum, but rather they are part of a system. That system is the family, which comes in all shapes and sizes (traditional nuclear families, extended families, caregivers, blended families, biological families, adoptive families, and more). Therefore, any issues the child has are impacted by the family – they can be helped or made worse, supported or shamed, empowered or discouraged. The role of the parent is central to a child’s well-being and sense of self. It is also a rewarding, taxing, and always changing role. Just as quick as kids outgrow clothing, so too do their needs change and evolve. And the reality is that although parents must keep up, they often need guidance and support as well. Parents can feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or exhausted by the daily demands of parenting (and that does not make them bad parents!). Parents may struggle in knowing how to help or relate to their children – young, adult, and everything in between. If you are struggling with any aspect of parenting and want to learn practical skills, gain insights, or explore underlying concerns, then consider seeking psychotherapy. What greater gift can you give yourself and your child than the ability to grow, understand one another, show compassion, and maximize the joy of being together?