When should your child see a therapist?

You’ve probably experienced a bit of anxiety over a new job. Will you fit in? Will you get lost on your way to the conference room? Do your new coworkers eat at their desks or do they go out for lunch?

That’s completely natural.

“The unknown causes anxiety,” said Ruth Ann Jennings, behavioral health therapist at OSF HealthCare Medical Group – Behavioral Health.

But when it comes to our kids, sometimes we tend to downplay those same worries.

For many of our kids, they’ve entered a new world – making the leap from elementary school to junior high. Or they’re struggling with changes in their bodies, and the insecurities that can bring.

“I think sometimes we minimize a lot of that because we’ve been through it before. We forget that it’s brand new for kids,” said Jennings. “But there are things we can do as parents, grandparents or professionals to help them understand these feelings and how to deal with them.”

Offer support

Most of the time, the best thing a parent can do to support their child is to be there for them and offer coping mechanisms – like listening to music, or even playing with slime.

But how do you know when to seek further help?

“Not every problem in a child’s life requires a therapist,” said Jennings. But there are some signs to look out for.

Talk to your pediatrician if you see any sudden change in your child’s behavior, such as:

  • Suddenly withdrawal from social activity
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Weepiness and/or other signs of extreme emotion
  • Anger/violence
  • Self-harm
  • The feeling they might be withholding information from you

Trust your intuition

Ultimately it’s important for parents to trust their intuition. If you feel like something is “off” with your child, talk to your pediatrician.

“It’s never a problem to consult someone,” said Jennings.

Your pediatrician will guide you and make a referral to a therapist like Ruth Ann Jennings if needed.

“Sometimes a child just needs someone other than their parent to talk with to validate their feelings,” said Jennings, “and that is not a reflection on your skills as a parent.”

“We are not here to make a judgment on your parenting,” said Jennings, “We have all been there.”

“That’s showing great love – being willing to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation by asking for help.”

Last Updated: March 25, 2020

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About Author: Katie Whitt

Katie Whitt is a marketing and communications coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since January 2016. Originally from Valparaiso, Indiana, she came to Peoria to earn her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Bradley University. Before joining OSF, she worked as a copy editor for both the Peoria Journal Star and The Bloomington Pantagraph.

In her spare time, Katie enjoys traveling, reading anything she can get her hands on and spending shameful amounts of time watching Netflix. She justifies her couch time with kickboxing and running.

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Categories: General, Kids & Family, Mental Health