“Play is the child’s natural medium of self-expression.”
– Axiline (child psychologist)
Are you looking for answers to these questions?
- What are some common signs that suggest your child needs to see a psychologist?
- How to decide when to seek help?
- What are specific signs parents should watch out for?
- Can I wait for my child to grow out of the problem?
- How does Dr. Bertie work?
- In terms of parental involvement, is there a difference between child and adolescent therapy?
This page addresses issues more relevant to young children and tweens. For issues common among teenagers, visit depression and suicidality, and self-harm. For older adolescents struggling with other issues, visit individual therapy.
What are some common signs that suggest a visit to a child psychologist is indicated?
Does your child/tween…
- show difficulty completing school work in a timely and orderly way?
- struggle with forgetfulness and disorganization (forgetting about homework, losing important items, not being able to follow through with a plan or follow teachers’ instructions, have no concept of a schedule or time-table)?
- have emotional meltdowns and oppositional tendencies, or behave in an irritable and withdrawn manner to the extent that causes concern in others (e.g., teachers, family friends, tutors)?
- have difficulty with speech: presenting thoughts, ideas, or feelings in a clear and comprehensible way?
- seem reluctant to try new things, fearful and withdrawn when facing challenging tasks, show behavior that suggests anxiety (e.g., disorganized speech and behavior, fidgeting)?
- seem unmotivated, “lazy,” and directionless?
How to tell if your child needs therapy?
For parenting self-help resources, visit our Parenting-Kit: attachment parenting & brain development, my SCMP articles, parenting printables, ADHD Quick Guide, defiance, EQ & sibling rivalry, new school transition, confidence and motivation, as well as more newsletters topics.
Why Jessica Alba decided to go to family therapy with her child
How to decide when to seek help?
Children naturally want to be good and be valued, and they are born curious and motivated learners. When children exhibit behavior that is labelled “lazy,” “bad,” or “naughty,” it is a sign that children are struggling with issues that they are unable to handle on their own. Difficult behavior can be their way of communicating to adults that they need help, since they don’t yet have words to tell you what’s bothering them.
Because there is variation within and across developmental stages, in certain cases, your child might just be showing behavior that is well within his or her developmental spectrum (e.g., a 3-year-old will find it difficult to sit still and be attentive for a 30-minute structured circle time). In that case, there is a good reason to wait and observe more. However, there are instances where developmentally-inappropriate behavior (e.g., bed-wetting at 8, talk of suicide, aggressive behavior at home and school, not finishing school work every night) might indicate that attention and interventions are needed.
It is hard to generalize, but if others close to your child have also expressed a similar concern, it will be a good idea to talk to someone. If in doubt, contact us to give us a sense of what’s going on with your child, and we can walk through your situation together.
Specific signs/conditions parents should watch out for:
- Warning signs of mental illness in a child
- Self-harm behavior in tween/teens
- Depression & Suicidality
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- ADHD (and why ADHD treatment is needed)
Can I wait for my child to grow out of the problem?
If you know why your child is struggling, you can work towards helping them. Given that emotional and behavioral blueprints are set early in life, it is best to step in early to prevent problems from spiraling downward.
How Dr. Bertie works:
When working with children, I start with engaging them via different means, depending on their interests and developmental maturity. Through observation and communication at a level that children can respond to, I attend to and help them process their distress in verbal or nonverbal ways. For example, my work with a child might focus on helping them overcome social challenges, manage emotional difficulties, process loss, and/or restore a sense of competence and self-mastery. Growth can show in the areas of academic, social and family settings. Supporting parents through collateral meetings is central to the work that I do with children.
Before I see your child, I will schedule an initial consultation with parents first. The purpose is to to collect information regarding your concerns and observation, your child’s background and developmental history, and the presenting issues.
In terms of parental involvement, is there a difference between child and adolescent therapy?
I work with parents closely in child therapy (children aged 12 and below). Adolescents, on the other hand, tend to have their own views about whether they want parents to be involved. Some adolescents want me to see their parents, while some don’t. Adolescents are at a developmental stage where they value their privacy, and so having their own space is important to them. So, whether and how often I see their parents and the scope of their privacy are issues that I discuss with adolescents directly. Some late adolescents will request their own therapy without involving their parents. Depending on what the presenting concerns are–if they need help with family or peer relationships, for example–I will address the issue of whether and how important it is for me to meet with parents, as I get to know the adolescent better.
Please visit the Therapy Q & A page for common questions I get asked.
What to do if my child/tween/teen refuses treatment? (I will also guide you through the process if you are not sure what to tell your child/teen why s/he needs treatment.)