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“Childhood is the best of all the seasons of life, and the longer it lasts with happy memories, the stronger the emotional stability in adulthood”– Venugopal Acharya –
Our childhood shapes our adulthood and that is why psychologists have emphasised on the importance of mental health during early years. As a practising psychologist, I hear stories of clients and when we try to find the root cause of these sufferings that they share with me, they are found in the childhood. It can be tiniest of tiny trigger, but its impact can be huge.
Importance of mental health of children and child counselling has come to the surface and many organizations are working towards it.
What Is Child Counselling?
Child counselling is a branch of counselling that focuses only on the mental wellbeing and mental issues that arise in children. Age group is something that matters in psychology, so there are different branches of counselling assigned to different age group. Here in child counselling, the counsellor caters to the children who are below 11 years.
Child counselling can be similar as adult counselling, where the children are given a safe space to talk to communicate in various ways.
Who Are Child Counsellors?
Child counsellors are mental health professionals who caters to children’s emotional, academic and social developments and issues. They provide insights on developmental milestones and its effects on children.
Child counsellors work with children with special needs, children with intelligence and academic problems, children who have witnessed trauma or situations that have caused emotional dysfunctions etc.
What Kinds of Issues Do Child Counsellors Treat?
Today’s environment is competitive not only for adults, but also for the children. In today’s world, the focus is more on exceling in academics and in extra-curricular activity that the child takes part in and very less focus is given on enjoying the process or the activities. So, children too face stress and anxiety at such a small age.
Along with emotional disturbances, child counsellors also play an important role in identifying academic difficulties and referring it to the educators.
Other common issues that child counsellors treat includes:
- Abuse (physical, sexual, verbal etc.)
- Behavioural issues
- Bullying at school or otherwise
- Coping with separation and divorce of parents
- Extended family issues
- Grief and bereavement
- Relocation anxiety
- School refusal
- Separation anxiety
- Self-esteem issues
- Sibling rivalry
- Social withdrawal
- Sleep issues
Related Blog: How to Counsel a Child with Anger Problems?
Different Types of Child Counselling techniques
Every child is different and the issues that the children face are different too, and therefore different techniques and therapy are used during child counselling. A counsellor needs to be creative while planning a session with children, so that the children engage positively in the session.
Here is a quick view of some therapies that are used in child counselling:
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This therapy is usually used with older children. In this, counsellor uses worksheets or games to help children change their negative beliefs that they might have formed. For example- If a child is coming in for counselling because his parents have separated, and he has started disliking his parents for the same, then the counsellor might use CBT to challenge the belief that just because his parents have separated doesn’t mean that they are bad people or bad parents.
2. Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma focus therapy is used with children who have witnessed trauma, such as any form of abuse, family violence, neglection from any of the parent, death of a close person etc. With help of this therapy, the counsellor guides the children to manage the trauma in a realistic way.
3. Play Therapy
Play therapy is used with younger children. This is an excellent way of therapy to establish rapport with the kids. Different forms of games are used in this therapy to observe the behaviour of the child, to understand the issues that the child might be facing. In this therapy, the children naturally start communicating with the therapist as playing games is involved.
4. Alternate Therapies
There are few cases where alternate therapies like music therapy, movement therapy, mindfulness therapy can be used as the child might benefit from it. It was seen that a child with Autism, who used to get violent in class, started responding to the music that the therapist played and could communicate calmly while the music was going on. Hence, depending on different issues, selection of therapies is made.
How Does Child Counselling Work?
Children are bought to therapy by their parents or caregivers as they see the difference in the children’s emotional, social, intellectual or behavioural aspect. Usually, case history is taken from parents or the caregivers. In this, main concerns, the child’s developmental milestones etc are listed down.
After the case history session, it is counsellor’s call whether to start the session with the child or with parents.
As and when the child is bought in for counselling, the main focus of the counsellor is to make her/him comfortable and build rapport with them. Confidentiality is maintained even in child counselling and parents are told about it.
As the counsellor observes the child, they decide what kind of therapy to be used and what goals are to be set. In child counselling, parents might also be called for separate or a joint session with their child.
Signs Your Child Needs Counselling
The most peculiar sign that tells that your child might need counselling is their behaviour. There might be a sudden or gradual change in their behaviour and it might persist for a longer time. Observing the child’s ‘out of character’ behaviour and talking about it to the professional is important.
Apart from that, if you feel that your child has gone through some drastic change in his/her life which might affect them, then that is a sign that you should opt for counselling for your ward.
Some signs that might shows signs of distress in your child, for which they might need counselling, are:
- Sudden aggression.
- Sudden withdrawal from social situations.
- Anger outburst.
- Sudden temper tantrums.
- Difficulty in reading, writing, math etc. which is not grade appropriate.
- Nightmares, fear of sleeping alone etc.
- Recurrent physical concerns.
- Observable loss or increase of weight/appetite.
Benefits of Child Counselling
The most important benefit of child counselling is that the children get a safe space to talk to a third person who isn’t a parent, sibling or family member. They can openly talk about anything and everything which helps the counsellor to understand the child and it helps the child to feel better.
Other important benefits of child counselling are:
- Children learn how to articulate their thoughts.
- Positive emotional expressions.
- Academic progress.
- Helps parents to understand their ward better.
Related Blog: 11 Surprising Benefits Of Child Counseling
Importance of Counselling in Child Development
The mind of children is like a sponge, it soaks whatever is near them. With good experiences in childhood, the children soak in positive attitude towards life and with not-so good experiences, they soak in negative attitudes. Child counselling plays an important role in breaking the negative attitudes and help children to inculcate rational thinking.
The earlier any problem is detected, the better it becomes to treat it. Counselling helps children with-
- Physical development.
- Cognitive development.
- Social development.
- Emotional development.
Counselling helps children with these important factors-
- Developing trust.
- Attention issues.
- Developmental delays or abnormalities.
Challenges Faced in Child Counselling
One of the biggest differences in child and adult counselling is that an adult walks into therapy by their own will and children are bought for counselling without an idea of what it is. It becomes difficult to explain the kids that the counsellor is not an aunt or uncle, but a counsellor and that they too need to take efforts for the journey to progress.
Other challenges that a child counsellor might face during counselling are:
- Explaining children who the counsellor is and what the sessions are about.
- Building rapport with children and keeping it the same for all sessions, because we know how a child’s mood can change from time to time!
- To make parents understand that all the information shared by their ward cannot be shared with them.
- To keep a child’s attention intact throughout the session.
- To keep a track of progress.
Best Child Counselling Books
Child psychology is essential to understand and books shed a light on it. Many psychologists have written books on understanding child psychology and activities and techniques for parents to conduct with their ward. Here are a few good books on child psychology, but parents make sure that you do not read a lot of material on child psychology and challenge the counsellor’s approach, after all they are professionals and they understand how to cater to your child’s needs!
1. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
2. The psychology of child by Jean Piaget.
Image Source >> https://www.amazon.in/Psychology-Child-Jean-Piaget/dp/0465095003
3. Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields and Carla Naumburg.
4. A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes, Sasha J. Mudlaff, and Cary Pillo
5. Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos & Marta Fabrega
Image Source >> https://www.amazon.in/Have-Secret-Lets-Talk-About/dp/0764131702
How Can I Find a Good Child Counsellor?
A good counsellor is the one who patiently listens to you and doesn’t make you feel like they know better than you. A counsellor that makes your kid and you feel comfortable might be the best fit for your child. It might happen that the counsellor might ask you to change a few patterns in your parenting, try it and see if it works rather than discarding the thought completely.
To know whether you have found the right counsellor, ask your child about the counsellor. Ask them whether they feel good after talking to them, see if your child gets excited for the sessions and observe what they talk about the counsellors. Knowing this will help you to whether you have found the right counsellor!
Frequently Asked Questions For Child Counselling
We understand that your child’s health is of topmost priority to you and you having questions about their mental health is natural. As parents, it is natural to be anxious while taking your child for counselling, but don’t worry we will try to cover all the questions that might pop in your mind regarding counselling!
Q1. How To Counsel A Bullied Child?
Child who has been bullied needs a loving and caring environment. The counsellor cannot take the child near and make him/her feel safe, but it can be done by verbal and non-verbal communication. Creating a safe space for the child in this case is of utmost importance.
Q2. How To Counsel A Child Who Has Lost A Parent?
Give child a space to grieve and understand what is happening. Use simple language and truth to explain them what has happened. Removing the fear of death can be one of the goals in this type of counselling.
Q3. How To Counsel A Child With Anger Problems?
Behavioural therapy can be used with the children who have anger issues. There are different techniques like star method, reward and reinforcements etc. Worksheets and activities like anger thermometer and anger management are few examples of it.
Q4. How To Get Counselling For My Child?
Start by finding a good counsellor, then meet the therapist in the first meeting and be transparent and honest with them. Accompany your child to the counselling centre. Follow the techniques that the counsellor suggests.
Q5. How Can We Avoid Child Counselling In Divorce Case?
Truthfully, child counselling should be opted in cases of divorce because it could be a drastic change in a child’s life and the child should know how to cope with it which can be achieved through counselling.
Q6. How To Counsel A Child For Giving Bad Words?
Whenever a child uses any bad word we tend to say ‘bad girl’ or ‘bad boy’. By doing this, we tend to label the entire child as bad, whereas no child is bad but some of their behaviours are bad. Then counselling can be done around this concept.
Need Child Counselling?
We understand that as parents, your children are your world. A small wound to them can hurt you and if they are distressed, then we can understand how you might get affected by it. We understand that a safe and non-judgmental environment is what you would like for your child and we provide that with the best child counsellor. Jump onto our child counselling service and book an appointment with our child counsellor!