Every parent comes to a stage when their child displays indications of anxiety, depression, or they manifest behavioural problems, problems with hostility, impulsiveness, or obstacles at school. Maybe your child bites nails. Perhaps he or she is too shy or with no self-confidence. Some children have a limited number of friends or spend considerable time online. Sometimes your child fears dogs or has nightmares, and sometimes a child is a victim of bullying or a different sort of abuse. Sometimes children have a problem with night wetting. Sometimes they mourn after the loss of a close person or a pet. Children go through diverse stages during growth. Their development could be unique, but at the same time, it follows some rules. If your child has issues, and you feel overwhelmed and unable to help your child, be aware, psychologists and psychotherapists are there to help.
Maybe you think we can only talk to your kid. Perhaps you feel no one can help. I guess you may doubt our insight abilities as your child acts nicely in front of other people. Let me tell you something. We see a lot of people with so many issues. Even though we are all unique, we have the same problems. Maybe our situations are not always comparable, but we all have three things – thoughts, emotions and actions. Psychologists/psychotherapists cooperate with parents to help the child. What we do is:
- identify unuseful patterns of thinking
- develop a common understanding of why these issues happen
- analyze if there are other ways to think about things
- experiment with new solutions
- learn new ways of controlling unpleasant emotions
- find new ways of dealing with problems.
Let me explain what I said.
Unuseful patterns of thinking
Cognitive-behavioural therapy aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioural patterns which reinforce distorted thinking. If you think about it, you can’t tell yourself how to feel, but you can change the way you think and behave. Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aim to reduce their psychological distress and make people feel better as a result.
What is this problem actually about
Both with children and adults, psychologists try to develop a common understanding of why these issues happen. I had a client recently, who told me about her problem with her 9-year old daughter. She was once an amazing, hard-working student, having a lot of friends. For the last few months, her grades deteriorated, she has no will to do anything she did before nor for hanging out with her friends but spends hours on her phone. She taught her daughter had problems with studying. I did not see it that way. I was more interested in other possible causes. I am heading to develop an understanding of why this problem with her studying happened in the first place. Maybe it really is a truth that she became lazy for studying, and maybe she is bullied at school, and maybe she has some completely different kind of problem. Once I find out what the problem really is, I can start treating it. And you may guess, the treatment would not be the same for different problems, even though the symptom (bad grades) is the same.
Experiment with new solutions
Once we start the therapy and identify the problem, we will also write down some goals we want to achieve with therapy. Then we will experiment with new solutions. There are many techniques and many solutions to every problem. With a psychologist, you will experiment with some of them in the right way, and then see what brings the best progress. No man is the same, and no child is the same. We may face the same problem but we still have different personality, experiences, values, reactions. There is no unique or best solution for any problem. Therefore, we do try different things with different children.
Learn new ways of controlling unpleasant emotions
Sometimes the problem may be that a child (or an adult) can’t control unpleasant emotions. There can be a problem with anger outbursts, or uncontrollable crying, shouting or other unpleasant emotions. It can make a serious problem for other people. Psychologists teach children to identify and name their emotions, to notice them before they react in a bad manner, and teach them techniques to control their emotions. Controlling all emotions, or suppressing one emotion too much, may be a problem as well, as it leads to different mental and physical diseases. A psychologist can be really helpful in teaching you how to express your emotions constructively.
Find new ways of dealing with problems
Every problem has its solution (and every solution has its problem). When we are overloaded with emotions, when we are under pressure, depressed, stressed, anxious, feeling there is no hope; we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t see other possible solutions for our problem, or we get caught up in the illusion that the solution must be perfect. There are so many shades of grey between white and black. The psychologist helps you and your child find several possible solutions, trying to understand which one could be the best option for you.
If your child has a problem, or if you have a problem with your child, try talking to experts before the problem excallates.
Dr. sc. Andrea Vlasic, psychologist, clinical hypnotherapist, CBT therapist IE