Children struggle with many of the same mental illnesses and stressors as adults, but helping them through these things often, necessarily, looks very different. Child therapists have specialized training and expertise that enables them to better empathize with children, and to use age appropriate tools and approaches to help them cope and grow. Children may also struggle with problems related to specific developmental milestones, life events, or experiences unique to childhood, and therapists who are sensitive and aware of those experiences can help kids feel heard and understood.
We often think of childhood as a time full of happiness, play, and exploring the world, but for some children, due to trauma, developmental disorders, negative experiences with family or friends, or even things like chronic nightmares, children can develop difficulties in life that may turn into mental health disorders.
Children struggle with anxiety and stress just like the rest of us but they often manifest these symptoms in different ways. Rather than communicating their pain like an adult would be able to, children tend to act out, become angry, irritable, tearful, or in some cases wet the bed or engage in unusual behaviors in an effort to cope.
Sometimes this can look like a child being obstinate or difficult, when in fact they are just trying to work out the difficulties they’re experiencing. It is often said in therapeutic circles that when there is something wrong in a family system, families will often try to cover it up, but children will manifest symptoms and draw attention to the problems, demanding they be attended to. But its not always easy to clearly see what the problems are or how to help with them.
Therapists who work with children are specially trained in recognizing common mental health issues that come up in children and helping them work through them and come to a place of better coping and communication. Depending on the age of the child, child counselors work with children in various ways to express what they’re feeling, process their emotions, communicate them, and to come up with healthier coping skills.
In cases of trauma, a child might need help expressing their fear and anxiety. A therapist can help by providing a safe, supportive environment for the child to process what happened to them and help them to feel safer.
In cases where unhealthy behaviors are the primary concern, a counselor might explore how the negative behaviors got started in the first place, what might contribute to them continuing, and help the child to come up with alternative behaviors. Sometimes this involves working on parenting skills or doing some family therapy.
Sometimes children struggle with anxiety or depression just like any adult would. This can look different in kids though. Sometimes anxiety looks like ADHD and its important to get an accurate diagnosis so you can treat the right thing. Kids can get anxious about any number of things including school, relationships, fears and phobias. A lot of kids get performance anxiety around a variety of issues and will come to fear disappointing others.
Regardless of what’s going on, if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health and you see them exhibiting any kind of concerning symptoms or behavior, they might benefit from seeing a child counselor. There are lots of good therapists in the greater Sacramento area who work with kids and SacWellness is home to several of them. Check out the therapists listed below who specialize in working with kids.
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