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What Age Should You Start Therapy For Your Child? Get Help or DIY?

Updated: Apr 16

Your child is struggling and you are struggling to parent them. Perhaps your child is struggling in daycare with transitioning between activities. Maybe your child is struggling to listen to adults and this may result in a suspension, behavioral plan, or expulsion. You and your significant other might be struggling to parent them and are not on the same page for parenting at all.

What can you do? How young is too young for mental health therapy or counseling?

Ages For Therapy For Children

Children at any age 2+ can benefit from therapy, particularly play therapy or PCIT, as can their parents. Starting younger means children will have a great foundation for discipline, attachment, and problems will be handled while they are young and able to be managed, versus teenage years. Would you rather deal with your child’s tantrum and learn how to handle it, or deal with a teenager who may be unmanageable by that point? Many parents would rather learn how to handle their child and child’s anger at a young age than wait for it to continue to grow. A great therapy for younger children ages 2-7 is Parent Child Interaction Therapy or PCIT.

Signs Your Child Needs Therapy

If Things Aren’t Getting Better

If you child isn’t getting better or things aren’t changing, therapy can help. If their tantrums continue to last and last, anger, rage, aggression, etc. If these challenges have been going on for longer than two weeks and don’t sem to be resolving, it may be time to seek therapy.

Your Child Is Hurting Others

If your child is:

  • Needing constant supervision to avoid hurting others

  • Getting handsy with their peers

  • Getting letters sent home from daycare or school about hurting others

  • Unable to be left alone around their siblings

  • Hitting, biting, pinching or hurting you

  • Throwing things at others to hurt them

Then therapy may be the right place for them to work on getting rid of the aggression and moving towards a happier, healthier child who knows how to manage their emotions without using aggression. It can help you as a parent learn to communicate with your child, set boundaries, reduce your parenting stress, and have consistent discipline. Imagine a child who can express when they are mad, make appropriate choices to calm down, and is able to be trusted to behave themselves when with other adults or children. Imagine you as the adult knowing how to handle these situations while staying calm and knowing the next steps. Therapy can help you achieve that goal.

Daycare Or School Are Sending Home Many Notes Or Phone Calls

If you are getting notes from school or phone calls about behavior problems, this is the time to seek therapy. Schools can only handle so much before your child will be put on a behavior plan or possibly expelled and changing a daycare placement or school can be harmful for a child.

You Struggle To Discipline Effectively

You want to be able to discipline your child and know what discipline looks like, but it feels like all discipline fails. Timeout fails and your child won’t sit on the step or chair. Time-in fails as they thrash and hit you. Taking away screen time seems to be the only thing that works, but only for a short period of time. You worry, how will you handle this when they get older?

Therapy, particularly PCIT, can help you have consistent discipline and know how to handle each situation, especially defiance, aggression, etc. The therapist will work to have your child listen to the first or second command, not the seventh command. How great would it be for your child to listen to you the first time you ask?

Benefits Of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy For Young Children

  • As a parent, you will learn to praise your child and support them as they learn

  • You’ll help your kid learn how to believe in themselves

  • You will practice healthy thought patterns and pass these along to your kid

  • Therapy will help your child’s self-esteem

  • Your child will learn healthy behavior habits

How To Explain Therapy To Your Child

In PCIT, we explain that the parents are coming to learn ways to better play with the child as adults often forget how to play with children. Kids get excited to teach the adults how to play and get so excited about special time that they forget about the therapist. For older children, it can be explained that the family is coming to therapy to work on communication and being happier together.

Starting kids young with therapy when you first notice problems is ideal. Waiting can cause a lot more problems later on when kids have learned habits over many years and are much more difficult to control. If your child has been struggling for more than two weeks and you are considering a child therapy or child counselor or play therapy or play therapist in Virginia, reach out today for a free consultation at 757-296-8794.

If you are looking for family therapy, play therapy, or Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Mary Willoughby (Romm) Prentiss is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.

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