Myths and Facts about Child Therapy
In just a matter of two months we will be entering a new year with new hopes and aspirations. The last few months have been especially difficult and have taken a toll on both our physical and mental health. In the pre-pandemic world some of us were absolutely oblivious towards our well-being and were busy making a living for ourselves and our family. We were ignoring a crucial part of our life and the outbreak of covid-19 acted as a reminder of it. It has sparked important conversations about physical and mental health. However, we are yet to do away with the taboo around mental health.
People are found to be hesitant to discuss mental health issues. Some even lack the understanding to recognise that they or their loved ones might be struggling with poor mental health. People in need are discouraged from seeking therapy or any form of treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Ignoring the signs of depleting mental health will only exacerbate the issue and will not make it go away. Contacting a medical professional will assist us in better managing the situation. They can assist us in making an accurate diagnosis of our illness and improving the prognosis of treatment.
There is a general misconception that mental health issues are only prevalent among adults. Parents find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that their child might require therapy. Phrases like “it’s just a phase” and “they will grow out of it” replace seeking proper medical care. This can have long-term consequences for our children and have an impact on them as adults. Hence, early detection and therapy make a vast difference. It is critical to remember that body weight and height are not the only two aspects of a child’s development that parents should be concerned about. Their mental health is also critical and should not be overlooked.
Child therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that focuses on the psychological needs of children. Children, unlike adults, may struggle to express their emotional distress and instead exhibit signs of irritation, sadness, have angry outbursts, sleep problems, and so on. A licensed therapist can identify these symptoms and provide the specific care that the child needs. As parents our common goal should be to fight off this stigma around mental health and therapy. Provide our children with the best possible care and encourage them to seek support. To that end, we will dispel five common myths about child therapy in this blog.
Myth 1 : Children are too young to struggle with mental illness
Fact : It is a common misconception that children cannot suffer from mental illnesses. It is generally regarded as an adult problem brought on by failure in life or love. Moodiness and angry outbursts are seen as part of a child’s growing up process and are normalised to an extent that can prove to be harmful. According to CDC, some of the common mental disorders found among children include anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other behaviour disorders. More than 1 in 7 adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder globally (source: UNICEF- SOWC 2021). It is not uncommon for their symptoms to be misinterpreted as signs of pre-adult development, and if left untreated, they can cause serious problems in a child’s overall development.
When your child appears to be sad and disoriented for a long period of time, it is highly recommended that you speak to a doctor. You can begin by talking to your trusted paediatrician, tell them in detail about your kid’s symptoms and what makes you worried about their behaviour. Take their guidance and speak to an informed child therapist.
Myth 2 : Medication alone can take care of the child’s problem
Fact : There is a common consensus that medication can quickly alleviate our problems and is a solution for all our ailments. As a result, when therapy is suggested as an alternative to medication, parents appear concerned. For them the term therapy becomes a trigger word. The stigma around therapy takes over and parents start to worry that their child may be labelled a certain way. This is the kind of mindset that we need to change.
While medication can help manage the symptoms better it may not be able to address the underlying cause of a possible mental illness. Therapy, on the other hand, is a long-term effort undertaken to understand the child’s behaviour better and come up with a more accurate treatment plan. It is a way of personalizing the treatment rather than prescribing a generic drug.
Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also known as CBT can offer long term behavioural change that can reduce symptoms and prevent the recurrence of symptoms. While severe symptoms need medication to heal, some conditions can be managed with the help of therapy. A trained therapist can help you identify the path of treatment better. What we can do as parents is keep an open mind and view therapy as merely an alternative to medication and nothing more than that.
Myth 3 : Therapy is a waste of money
Fact :Another similar myth is that therapy is just a waste of money as one cannot reap instant benefits from it. Therapy as a form of treatment is not widely accepted in our culture and hence is viewed as frivolous and superficial. However, as parents who want to provide the best possible care for their children, we must make better, informed decisions. A trained child therapist can help you know your child better. By analysing simple body cues, a therapist can help you identify, manage and at times overcome physical or mental disability.
Children born with disabilities are at a higher risk, but that does not mean that every child should not be monitored. Some children might develop a disorder during their growing stage. Hence, even in case of the slightest doubt, parents should consult a medical practitioner. Parents should ensure that their child reaches the important developmental milestones at the appropriate time. For example, by 9-12 months, every child should be able to respond to their own name. If they do not, it may be a sign of autism. Parents should be mindful of these instances and should seek immediate medical attention without any delay. Another thing to keep in mind is that one should not be swayed by the uninformed opinions of strangers on the internet or family members. Misguided information may do more harm than good.
Myth 4 : Disability in children are a marker of bad parenting
A child’s behaviour is often equated with their caregiver’s parenting skills. Parents and their primary caregivers do impact a child’s behavioural pattern as they are their first point of contact in the socialisation process. However, they are not responsible for shaping a child’s personality entirely or responsible for everything that happens and doesn’t happen to them. There are numerous contributing factors, some of which are genetic in nature and over which caregivers have no control. Autism, for example, can be inherited or caused by birth complications such as extreme premature delivery (before 26 weeks), low birth weight, multiple pregnancies, and so on. In cases like this parenting is not a contributing factor in your child’s plight. But it can be a contributing factor in managing their disability.
Parents are placed on a pedestal and are given no room for error. The fact that their child was born with or has developed a disability is associated with a sense of shame. This prevents them from recognising that their child may require special care. This delays their treatment and exacerbates the ailment. Hence, parents should have access to a support system who can guide them and help them unlearn these social stigmas. As a responsible stakeholder, the consulting doctor or paediatricians should also play a role in counseling the parents and destigmatizing child therapy.
Myth : 5 Love can heal everything
Fact : We believe that as parents, we make the best decisions for our children. We make those decisions out of love and are extremely protective about them. The love of a parent knows no bounds, and we will go to any length to comfort our child. It, however, does not necessarily mean that we are always making the most informed and best decision for their lives. We must recognise that we do not always possess the scientific way of thinking that doctors or counsellors can provide. While love and care are essential for healing, they cannot cure an illness or disease.
Certain times we have to be objective with how we deal with our children’s growth and development. We must prioritise science over what our hearts tell us. While growing up children are oftentimes smothered to an extent that it may hamper their developmental stage. Bedwetting, for example, is considered a common occurrence; however, when a child between the ages of 5 and 10 years wets their bed on a regular basis, it could be a sign of an underlying condition that can only be identified with the assistance of a medical practitioner. Slow physical development, stress, and abuse have all been linked to frequent bedwetting in children, according to research.
Therapy, as a form of treatment, can produce significant results and aid your child’s development in a variety of ways. It can improve their relationship with their parents, help them in making new friends, and help them respond better to social situations.
A therapist can assist you in identifying deviations from what is considered normal and can also provide you with solutions to the problem at hand. It is always a good idea to keep your trusted paediatrician in the loop as you begin therapy with your child, as they can help you clear your doubts and reinforce your confidence in the therapy process.