Children and teenagers navigate the world with the knowledge they acquire from parents, extended family, peers, teachers, and friends. However, as our brains are not fully developed until we reach our early twenties, growing up poses a new set of challenges. While kids and teenagers have the capacity to do well, their journey often includes some version of depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, variable social skills, perfectionism, and difficulty with emotional regulation. For some, additional issues may include drug use, behavioral problems, poor academic performance, self-harm behaviors, and coping with trauma. You as a parent may also recognize new challenges in communicating with your teen and he/she/they are trying to assert themselves and become autonomous.
A counselor may help your child/teen not only ‘talk it out’, but also gain valuable coping strategies and skill sets that will be valuable for life. These skills are usually not intuitive for young people, and it’s often helpful to be guided by an expert. While this is not always the case, some teens do not open up much to their parents or caretakers, and it can be frustrating to have a limited dialogue. A counselor can help bridge that gap and open up the communication lines, even when it seems hopeless to begin with.
Expectations for parents/caretakers: Parents are an integral part of the family system and hence the counseling process. If nothing changes in the child’s environment, their progress will only carry them so far. While my focus is individual counseling with the child or teen, I invite the family into part of the session at least every 2-3 visits to summarize progress and things we are working on. We sometimes also do full family sessions where change may be needed not only by the client but by parents and caretakers as well.
Most children/teens improve significantly within just a few sessions, but some may need longer treatment, especially if there is deep-rooted trauma and/or depression involved.