Why Children are Never Too Young For Therapy

four children standing next to each other
four children standing next to each other

It’s important to recognize that therapy doesn’t have an age limit.

While the idea of children undergoing therapy may raise eyebrows for some, the truth is that addressing mental and emotional well-being from a young age can be a transformative and empowering experience. 

Early Intervention = Lasting Results

Just as we prioritize regular check-ups for physical health, the same principle applies to mental health. 

Early intervention allows therapists to identify and address potential issues before they become more deeply rooted. By working through challenges early on, children can develop healthy coping mechanisms that will serve them well into adulthood.

Building Emotional Resilience

Childhood is a time of rapid emotional development. 

Therapy provides children with a safe and nurturing environment to explore and understand their emotions. Learning to navigate feelings such as anxiety, sadness, or anger with the guidance of a trained professional equips children with the emotional resilience needed to face future challenges.

Navigating Life Transitions

Children, like adults, experience various life transitions—whether it’s moving to a new school, the birth of a new sibling, or parents that are divorcing. Therapy can be instrumental in helping children navigate these changes, providing them with tools to adapt and grow in the face of uncertainty.

Fostering Healthy Communication Skills

Effective communication is a pillar of healthy relationships. 

Therapy offers a space where children can express themselves freely and learn how to articulate their thoughts and feelings. Developing strong communication skills early on sets the stage for better interpersonal relationships in the future.

Addressing Behavioral Concerns

Some children may exhibit behavioral issues that can be challenging for parents and educators to understand and manage. 

Therapy can uncover the underlying causes of such behaviors and offer strategies to address them constructively. It’s important to view behavioral challenges as growth opportunities rather than indicators of a child being “too young” for therapy.

Supporting Parents and Caregivers

Therapy isn’t just for the child; it’s also a resource for parents and caregivers. Professionals can offer guidance on effective parenting strategies, help manage expectations, and support the entire family unit.

Creating a Stigma-Free Environment

Normalizing therapy from a young age helps break down the stigma associated with seeking mental health support. When children grow up understanding the value of emotional well-being, they are more likely to continue prioritizing their mental health as they enter adolescence and adulthood.

The Diversity Amongst Back-To-School Students

By: Katie Walker |

 
It’s time for school…again.
 
For most parents out there this is a return to schedule, structure, and knowing the kids are in what they hope is a safe place for hours of the day. For some kids its a return to friends, structure, and learning which most enjoy. Today’s blog is about every instance in between. This means the kids who dread school for fear of bullying, rejection, power struggles with teachers, being labeled, compared, and feeling school only makes it worse.
 
Also, this is for the kids who love school because it’s consistent, provides safe expectations of what to do and what needs to be done, it’s an escape from what could be an unsafe home. Having worked with kids and teens for almost 10 years now – all of these groupings of kids exist and there are some not mentioned. What I hope this blog can be is a quick reminder of the diversity of experiences the kids and teens heading back to school are going through as well as a reminder to be kind. 
 

Types of Students

1. Kids and teens who are excited and ready for school – these friends come together in this grouping for many reasons. These friends are ready to learn and really enjoy the process of learning. These friends are the kids ready to be out of their homes to hang out with friends more. These are also the kids ready to be away from their home because home is unsafe, unstable, and unpredictable. When you come across these kids don’t doubt their sincerity and don’t downplay their excitement. Welcome their energy to the classroom. 

2. Kids and teens who are dreading school – again, these friends are here for many different reasons. One can be that school doesn’t feel like it fits their needs – these can be kids with adhd, autism, depression, developmental disorders; kids who don’t feel they fit the school expectation mold and school doesn’t seem to have the ability to meet their individual needs. This can cycle the kid or teen through feelings of incompetence, rejection, embarrassment, shame – emotions and thoughts that do not help anyone thrive. If you come across these kids – welcome them, help them feel capable and needed. 
 
This group of kids and teens are also those who have dealt with bullying, assault, mistreatment in the school arena and returning to it can feel traumatizing. Their reality needs to be seen and handled with kindness as well. These are kids who may end up in the counselor’s office; missing a lot of school; “acting out” in classes and the hallways; and much more. Keep an eye out for these kids too, they just want to feel seen and heard. To feel cared for. 
 
3. Kids and teens who mask their inner world – these are the friends who “seem” fine and “seem” able to be at school, do their homework, get the extracurriculars done and don’t “make a fuss.” I use quotation marks to denote that things are not always okay and to expect kids and teens to always be okay is unrealistic and unfair. 
 
Kids and teens need to be able to be authentic, to be silly, goofy, express their innerworld, and to speak up when things are not okay. Kids and teens who mask are really masters at self-control because they got the message at some point to not make a stir, or a fuss, or to draw attention. 
 
These kids and teens sometimes have outbursts that surprise teachers, friends, and family – this is because they are trying so hard to be what they were told is “good” but their emotions, feelings, and thoughts must come out. Let kids and teens be authentic. Open their expression of self into the classroom and be grateful when they share. 
 

Final Thoughts

Now, I imagine there are more groupings of kids we could come up with. However, this gets almost all of them. If you have time, scroll back through this post and consider those groups as people in college; people in the workplace; your colleagues; your neighbors; people in your congregation or community. If we can see that everyone is dealing with something and we choose to be kind rather than assessing and judging; life could be more bearable. 
 
For you kids and teens returning to school – good luck and be kind. For the rest of us – be kind. 

Back To School Therapy Tips To Help Transition

Help Yourself and Your Children Transition Back to School

This is a time of year when there are so many changes for kids, teens, and parents alike. Returning to school brings new and old friends, activities, learning, expectations, and grades. All of that is the added stress of social media, being a kid, family member, and parent.

Okay, writing that started to bring some flashbacks of school…phew! This post is hopefully going to provide ideas, tips, and general direction for kids, teens, and parents to help navigate the coming school year.

Mentally Prepare Yourself and Your Child for The School Year

Going into the school year is a big transition time and everyone involved in this process needs to be on the same page. The ideas to prepare and plan for our life skills, time commitments, education priorities, mental health, and play – giving them chances to be a kid. These things become complicated when expectations are kept silent or one-sided.

Taking time to break each of the above areas down will help parents and caregivers have an idea of how to help their kids and teens.

Priorities to Consider

Life skills examples include planning, organizing, cleaning, communication, boundaries, and responsibility.

male and female sit over young male smiling at a computer as the mom pats the boys head

Time commitment examples include sitting down together and going through all 168 hours you and your child have in one week. Consider all 24 hours in a day and really help them look at how their time is spent. Look for opportunities to have transition time between school, activities, and homework.

Education priority examples include everyone setting realistic expectations for performance.

Openly discussing learning ability, factors that can impact that, and really having an open min on both sides to accepting limits as well as pushing limits when appropriate.

Mental health is so crucial for kids and teens. The amount of stress, environmental factors, friends, bullies, and social media are all so much to handle. Managing times for breaks; discussing anxiety, suicidal thoughts, depression, and self-harm; support systems; and normalizing conversations and acceptance of these things can open so much in having your kid or teen come to you.

Play examples include time with friends, rest, fun activities, creativity, and using imagination.

older and younger female walk down a shrubbery path and the older woman has her arms around the younger child

With all the things to consider going into a new school year remember that everyone at home is going to have some high emotions during the first 6-8 weeks and then things hopefully will even out.

Keep in mind that home can become a safe place for kids and teens when they know, and trust parents are on their side with their best interests in mind. Invest the time now to be able to create a successful school year for everyone.

How to Manage Your Child’s Emotions

Your Child Can Feel Better With These Simple Tips!

1. Set up a Routine: Make sure backpack, clothes & homework are ready the night before. Have a family meal time or family fun time each day. Let your child know the plans for the next day.

2. Stay Calm: Even if your child is begging you, crying & melting down. Your child can sense your anxiety. Put on your “Game Face” and remain positive. Focus on your child’s strengths instead of their weaknesses. Help them follow through with their obligations whether it is with a playdate, school, church, or home.

3. Do NOT avoid your child’s fears: Help your child face their fears. Avoiding the “thing” that causes your child’s fear will only make it worse! Letting your child stay home from school because they don’t want to be away from you will only make it harder the next time. There may be tears, tantrums & sad faces but know that with time then that will go away. The best way to conquer anxiety is to face anxiety!

4. Be Prepared: Making sure that your child’s homework is done, tests are studied for & materials ready will help ease their anxiety. Many times, students are not wanting to come to school because their homework is not done & missing more school will only increase that worry adding upon their stress. Whatever your child’s fear is, you can help them feel more prepared and confident.

5. Teach your child strategies: Children can be taught strategies at a young age to help deal with their anxiety. They will need your help & guidance on how to use these strategies because children won’t know how or when to use them on their own. Strategies include deep breathing, fidget or sensory toys, positive self-talk, & relaxation or mindfulness methods.

6. Cut down Screen Time: Studies show that our screen time increases anxiety and depression and decreases social skills. Your child should have a maximum of 45-60 min of screen time a day (This does not include screen time for school or homework)! Use technology as a tool rather than a distraction. Encourage them to go outside and play.

7. Good Sleep: Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep at night. A good bedtime for elementary students is 8:30. This allows them to at least get 10-12 hours of sleep. Make sure they are not on electronics at least an hour before bedtime. This will help their brains relax and regulate their melatonin levels, which helps them sleep better.

8. Healthy Diet: Our food is our fuel. Studies show junk food increases anxiety and depression. If our children aren’t eating healthy, they won’t be able to function. They will be more restless, anxious & emotional. Healthy food will improve anxiety and depression.

Resources for Anxiety and other Emotions

Technique’s

Any Mindfulness technique could be helpful. You can use these or google different ones

Techniques: Any Mindfulness technique could be helpful. You can use these or google different ones

● The Color Game-Find everything in the room that’s a certain color, then go to the next color

● Come back to the 5 senses- example: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste

● Sing your thoughts to the tune of Happy Birthday or say them in a funny voice (Like Minnie Mouse)

● Lock up your worries in a worry box in your mind, then set a worry time to open up the box and talk about your child’s worries

● Take deep breaths with your child In for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds

● Tell your safety brain “That’s a lie” then tell your brain true information (ex: List the people at school who care about your child if your child is afraid of school)

● Give your child a stress ball or sensory toy to play with while they talk to you

● Imagine every detail of your happy place or memory like you were actually there

Books:

● Workbook to do with your child- What to do When you Worry too Much by Dawn Huebner or What to do When you don’t want to be apart by Kristen Lavallee, What to do When Fear Interferes, What to do when your temper flares, What to do When Mistakes Make you Quake, What to do when you Grumble too Much, What to do when Bad Habits Take Hold, etc (There is a whole series of these books for different emotions you can search What to do workbooks for kids)

● The Illustrated Happiness Trap by Russ Harris-Easy read for adults with some techniques to help the worries

● You can Google “Books to help kids with anxiety (or whatever emotion)” and a long list of helpful books come up

Websites:

● Mind yeti- guided mindfulness for kids https://mindyeti.com/power-portal

● Yogamedo youtube channel- Yoga for kids helps them learn some skills to de-stress

● www.cosmickids.com or Cosmic Kids.com on youtube

● Worry Wise Kids-Info on anxiety for parents www.worrywisekids.org

● NAMI- Info on anxiety https://www.nami.org/

● Google “mindfulness techniques for kids” online

● Youtube relaxing music with fish on youtube- Have your child focus on the fish when upset

Free Apps:

● Relaxio (White noise app)

● Stop, Breathe, and Think (guided mindfulness app based on your mood)

● Headspace (General guided mindfulness/meditation app)

● Mind yeti app (Goes along with the website mentioned above)

● Mindful Family

● Insight Timer

● Smiling mind

● My Strength- free classes, tips, and trackers for mental and physical well-being

● SafeUT- 24/7 therapists you can call, text, or chat with- you can also send in tips of someone who may need help

Community Resources:

● SAFE-FAM- Free Mobile Response and Stabilization services for any child or caregiver ○ 1(833) SAFE-FAM (723-3326)- They come into your home and work with your child for free ● Call 2-1-1 for more resources for children and adults

8 Mindfulness Activities You Can Do as a Family

Mindfulness is a simple, yet powerful way to relieve stress and help with emotional regulation, and there are so many benefits for children and adults. You can practice mindfulness regularly (even if you are feeling good) to enhance the wellbeing of your family. Here are ten simple tricks you can try with your family (You can think of some of your own too!):

1. Take a listening walk Go someplace (backyard, nature, the mall, etc) and walk together in silence, listening for sounds you typically overlook: leaves rustling, a pine cone falling from a tree, your own steady breath. To make it more fun, you can turn paper cups into amplifiers by cutting a hole in the sides of two cups and putting them over your ears.

2. Take a 30 second vacation Imagine every detail of where you want to go on vacation (can also be your happy place or a happy memory) as if you were actually there in your mind. What can you see, taste, touch, and smell while you are there? You can do this as long as you would like.

3. Savor some silence During a period of enforced quiet, go through your regular routine, and see what you hear, see, smell, and feel in the silence.

4. Try a sitting meditation A formal meditation can be difficult for kids (and adults!). But it is very effective— The most common form of meditation is to focus on the breath. You can have your family focus on their breathing, or find a guided meditation on an app or website (Stop, Breathe, and Think, Mind Yeti, Insight Timer, Headspace, Smiling Mind, and Mindful Family are a few.)

5. Play the Color Game While you are walking outside or sitting inside, you can play the color game with your children. Find everything in the area that is a certain color, then you can go to the next color. You can also play this game with patterns (stripes, polka dots, lines, etc) numbers, letters, and shapes. This game helps calm the mind and bring us back to the present.

6. Really taste what you’re eating Be in the present moment with the taste, textures, and temperature of foods that you are eating. Focus on how it feels to chew or sip in your mouth. Ask everyone to spend the first few minutes of certain meals silently noticing the food in their mouth. If your mind wanders to something else, simply bring it back to the present moment.

7. Listen Carefully/Spend Time Together Without distractions like TV, social media, phones, or electronics, be fully engaged as you listen to each other and spend time with each other. Notice how you feel about each other when you do this.

8. Notice your body A “body scan” is a great way to notice how your body feels in the present moment. Sit or lie with your kids and, starting with the toes, silently or out loud bring awareness to one body part, until you’ve worked your way up to the top of your head. If you want, you can have each person describe how a specific body part feels (ex: “I’m focused on my stomach, and it feels rumbly,” or “I’m focused on my left toes, and they feel tingly.”)

11 Tips to Parent Your Anxious Child by Anne Marie Albano, PhD

1. Respect and validate your child’s feelings. Anxiety is real and not pleasant.

2. Teach your child deep, slow breathing. This is an easy and very portable skill for self-soothing and calming.

3. Listen to your child and ask, “Tell me what you are thinking.” This will help to reveal scary thoughts and scenes that build up in your child’s mind.

4. Rather than swooping to reassure, ask your child, “How likely is (that thing you are afraid of) to happen?” You’ll be teaching them to challenge their anxious thinking.

5. Prompt your child with “Tell me some things you can do to handle this situation,” and help them to brainstorm rather than just giving them solutions. This will help them feel empowered.

6. Give up the idea of “mental health days,”“skip days,”“sleep with mom nights,” or other ways of avoiding feared situations. This just makes the anxiety stick more firmly and lead to further avoidance.

7. Encourage your child’s attempts to be brave, no matter how small they may seem to you. Use labeled praise such as “I’m so proud of you for sleeping in your own bed last night.”

8. Work with your child to outline small steps leading to a bigger goal.

9. Create opportunities for your child to practice being brave and coping, and then high-five their efforts.

10. Recognize when you are anxious and say aloud what you can do to calm down and solve the situation. You’ll be modeling coping for your child, but be mindful and don’t overshare your anxiety!

11. Use a feelings chart to talk about how you feel, and model it for your children, “I feel sad because I burnt dinner.”