Many parents find themselves asking this question: “Should I take my child to counseling?” This is a complex question. Here are a few things to consider before scheduling the first appointment.

What is the issue?

Counseling is a place to address a variety of issues, but it is most effective for emotional and behavioral problems. If you are noticing emotional issues in your child, particularly difficulty regulating emotion, problems coping with emotion, signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders, counseling will likely be very helpful for your child.

If you are having difficulty with behavioral issues with your child, such a child being defiant or acting out, it can be most helpful to begin with counseling for you as a parent. Behavioral issues are usually a sign that a child is not getting their needs met. Counseling can help you evaluate your parenting approach and provide a stable, loving environment for your children that promotes deeper parent-child attachment and cultivates more positive behaviors.

Does your child want to go to counseling?

If your child is asking to go to counseling, this is a great sign that they have insight into their issue and are ready to get help. It is extremely brave for kids to ask their parents to take them to counseling; this request should not be taken lightly. If your child is resistant to counseling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would not benefit from counseling. You as a parent have the right to consent for your child to receive counseling, but keep in mind that even the most skilled counselor does not have the power to make a child open up and make changes. Some willingness is required on behalf of your child in order for counseling to be effective. For children that are resistant, show them respect by communicating clearly with them about the situation. Talk to your child about the issues you are observing and what you hope counseling can help them with; do not blindside your child by dragging them to a counseling session without warning. Let them know you have scheduled an appointment and talk to them about what to expect at the session and what you expect from them. Ask if they have any questions for you or for the counselor.

Are you as a parent willing to participate in counseling?

As a parent, you have a great opportunity to provide support for your child. Being involved in the counseling process and being willing to make changes yourself is a key component to success in counseling. You, as a parent, have the power to change the family dynamic which can create positive changes for the entire family. Instead of your child feeling like a problem to be fixed, the you can join in to find ways to share in their child’s pain.

Ways to start improving family life now:

Here are a few tips that can help your family now. By implementing these tips, you may find that these little changes are all your family needs.

Increase quality time

 Time spent with family members is irreplaceable. If you are noticing issues in your child, try spending more one on one time with that child. Giving your kids uninterrupted time shows them how much you value them just for being who they are—not for what they do or do not do. Learning your child’s love language can help you communicate love to them in more intentional ways. Fostering attachment in this way increases a child’s sense of self-worth and trust in their parent.

Decrease screen time 

Screen time is a growing issue for children and teens. Too much screen time can limit social development, hinder ability to delay gratification, and cause difficulty with emotional regulation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has specific guidelines for parents for regulating screen time at various ages such as setting boundaries and limitations for your child. You can help your children by implementing boundaries for screen time and providing other opportunities for fun and engagement.

Building a routine

Children thrive with boundaries and consistency. Finding ways to create a family routine can significantly improve a child’s behavior. Routines provide the consistency needed to help your child feel secure. Having an idea of what comes next each day can allow your children to form healthy habits and learn how to organize their days as they grow up.

After implementing these tips and you need additional help. The Rejoice counseling team is here for you. One of our counselors can offer you encouragement and guidance as a parent, assist you with understanding age-appropriate behaviors and expectations for children, foster your parent-child relationship, cope with parental stressors, offer parenting tips, navigate sibling conflict, and overall help your family become a community of life and love. For details and appointments, call (844) 295-3167 or visit www.MyParishCounseling.com