Is it a stage?
It could very well be. Kids in that 2-5 age range are learning all about their feelings and about the different behaviors they can and cannot get away with. With this process, they are bound to pick up some behaviors that parents are not going to be thrilled with like hitting, taking things, and intense tantrums. With the support of their caregivers (parents, teachers, etc.) many kids will be able to work through those negative behaviors without the need of a counselor.
With some kids, however, those stages can kind of stick and they and their parents can benefit from the help of a counselor to get everything moving forward again.
I typically recommend counseling when the behaviors are beginning to cause some issues at home, daycare, preschool, or all of the above; when they have been going on for a couple of months; when you feel like you have tried everything and nothing seems to be working; or if you are just starting to worry about the well being of your little guy or girl.
When can counseling help?
A lot can happen in the first 5 years of life. Kids are generally good at bouncing back from difficult situations, but sometimes they need help to get through the problem so it does not hold them back.
Big life changes can be hard for adults, but we often forget to think about how these things can affect the small ones in the home. Divorce, people passing away, and moving happen pretty regularly. When big things like this happen, it is not strange for young kids to show some regression in their behavior (i.e. start having accidents, trouble sleeping, trouble being away from mom or dad). Counseling can be very helpful with letting kids process their feelings around life changes.
Sometimes events can be smaller like moving to a new city, but sometimes kids have to see things we wished they did not. Witnessing a serious fight, being in a car accident, being hit, kicked, or threatened themselves, or sexual abuse all can lead to kids developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The earlier the counseling, typically the better the results in these kids of cases.
Counseling can also be very helpful when kids are having bigger problems like destroying classrooms or rooms at home, refusing to do what they are asked, or when they start showing signs of more severe emotional or behaviors disorders. Kids as young as 2 can start to show signs of depressive disorders, anxiety problems, and bipolar symptoms.
What does counseling look like for a kid that young?
If, as an adult, you have ever been to a therapist or you have watched any movies with a counselor in it, you probably have the vision of counseling being you sitting on a couch while a counselor asks you a bunch of questions. Kid therapy looks nothing like this.
Children speak through one main mean: PLAY. Play therapy has been extensively researched and is by far the therapy of choice for kids. Especially preschool kids. Depending on the child, I use a few main forms of therapy in working with preschool aged children:
- Child Centered play therapy: This is a more hands-off therapy approach for kids. It allows the kid to have much more control of the session and they are able to work through any issues they would like to work through. I almost always use this form of therapy in kids who are dealing with some one dying, in cases of trauma or abuse, and for kids who are just having difficulties with various home changes.
- Directive play therapy: Most sessions will have some form of me, as the therapist, leading the therapy in some way. Sometimes it can be a game to teach a skill or sometimes it will be helping them to process their feelings. Directive therapy is anytime the therapist takes the lead in the session.
- Parent Sessions: All therapy will include some form of the parents being involved. Sometimes I teach the parents how to become their child’s therapist as is the case with Filial Therapy, or sometimes I will help the parents develop some different strategies they can use with the kids at home. As kids spend most of their time with their parents, not having you be a part of counseling would make progress slower.
- In those cases when a daycare or preschool is involved, I work with the teachers and directors in order to help them develop some different strategies they can use in the classroom to help the kids improve.
Ultimately, counseling has the potential to help your kid become their best selves and to develop skills that will carry with them for their entire lives.
If you are interested in talking with me to see if your child might benefit from counseling you can you can click the “get started now” button below or call me at 513-646-9708.
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