Child counselling offers young people a safe space to discuss and work through anything they may be struggling with. This could include family worries, exam stress and mental health concerns like anxiety and self-harm.
Being a parent or carer can feel overwhelming at times. All you want is for your child to thrive and be happy, so it can be difficult to see them struggle. It's tough.
But as much as you want to be the person they come to with their concerns and 'fix' any worries they have, this isn't always possible. Sometimes, children benefit from talking to a professional, someone who has the training to help with their particular concern and someone who is unbiased.
By creating a safe space to talk through their concerns, child counselling can help children understand their emotions better, develop coping skills and build emotional resilience, something that will serve them well into adulthood.
In this video, counsellor Izzy Sturgess explains how child counselling can help and what it offers young people.
What is child counselling?
Child counselling gives a young person the opportunity to talk about how they feel without the fear of judgement. Speaking to a counsellor, away from their home and school life, can take away some of the pressure. Counselling offers a safe environment for children to express their feelings and understand what may have caused them to feel this way.
The methods used in sessions will depend on the child’s age, situation and development. There are a number of tools that may be used to encourage children to express their feelings better, such as through play and art. Reading stories and talking about the feelings of a specific character can help them understand the emotion and, in turn, encourage them to discuss their own feelings, while drawing, painting or drama can help the child express themselves better.
Older children may prefer talking therapy, or a mixture of both. This is down to the child and the counsellor, who will discuss the situation together to learn what method will be most beneficial. Although different methods may be used for child counselling, the aim of counselling for both children and adults is the same; to help the individual understand and cope better with their feelings, increase resiliency and live a more fulfilling life.
What can child counselling help with?
Some examples of how counselling can help children include coping with everyday worries, managing exam stress and overcoming relationship issues with friends, family and teachers. Counselling can also help with self-harm concerns, grief, depression and anxiety, and learning difficulties, to name a few. But, if something is making your child unhappy, however small you or they feel it is, know that it is important.
There is no right or wrong reason for someone to attend counselling. Sometimes it’s just good to talk to someone objective, other times, more support may be needed.
Common child-related concerns
Children’s learning difficulties
Depression and anxiety
Changes to keep an eye out for include if they become extremely shy, timid or clingy, have real difficulties mixing with other children, have difficulty falling and staying asleep, have repeated nightmares (more than once a week), repeated complaints of headache or tummy ache, or are constantly asking if things are all right or other ways of asking for reassurance.
- Counsellor Donna Day MBACP shares tips to help children manage anxious thoughts
Will counselling help my child?
If your child is struggling, counselling can help them understand why they feel this way and develop tools to help them cope with any challenges they may be facing. It can also provide a space to claim as their own, emotionally, which they may feel is lacking for them.
As there are many different approaches to counselling, there is likely to be a style to suit everyone. Talking to the counsellor to learn more about their work before starting sessions can be helpful, as can talking to your child about any preferences they may have.
As a parent/carer, the counsellor should work with you to get a clearer idea of what's happening and anything you can do to further support your child.
What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist?
While some aspects of counselling remain the same regardless of age, there are certain issues and developmental intricacies that often require an alternative approach. A Diploma level qualification (or equivalent) in child/youth counselling or a related topic will provide assurance and peace of mind that your counsellor has developed the necessary skills.
Another way to assure they have undergone this type of specialist training is to check if they belong to a relevant professional organisation representing child/youth counsellors.
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