Sometimes emotional problems can get in the way of a child’s development. Children may start having behavioural difficulties at school or at home, or they might get very anxious for no apparent reason, or become sad and depressed. Often these problems are the result of emotional distress that is hard to recognize and talk about. Without appropriate help, such problems can live on into adulthood, affecting self-esteem, the ability to adapt to change, or establish satisfying and rewarding relationships. Child psychotherapy is a way to treat that emotional distress by exploring the thoughts and feelings that may lie behind it.
The Willow Centre has a staff of caring and experienced professionals who can help with:
How Do I Explain Therapy to my Child?
Many parents explain that a therapist is a kind of “doctor” or “special person” who helps children with their feelings and worries. It is important to clarify to children that they do not need therapy because they are “bad” but rather because they have some things (i.e., feelings, worries) with which they might need help. Since many children equate the word “doctor” with shots and other physically uncomfortable procedures, you may wish to point out that psychologists simply talk and play to try to help them with their worries. To the extent that is compatible with the child’s needs for privacy and confidentiality, we encourage parents’ involvement throughout the course of treatment.
Q & A
- Learning Difficulty
My 9-year-old son has trouble comprehending the material he’s being taught at school. His teachers say he’s not focused and loses concentration easily. We’ve tested his vision and hearing, and also did an auditory-processing test; everything has come back fine. I feel helpless. Do you have any advice?
Lately, my seven-year-old has been taking money from my wallet and loose change he finds around the house. I’ve told him it’s stealing and not to do it anymore, but it’s still going on. How can I get him to stop?
- Rejecting Praise
We’re accustomed to our seven-year-old daughter’s difficulty accepting praise, but her recent reaction was the worst yet. When we told her how proud we were when she was chosen to read the morning announcements at school, she got very angry, yelled at us to stop talking about it and began to cry. My husband says these “moments” are normal. Is he right?
- Losing Friends
My six-year-old son recently “broke up” with his best friend. He’s taking the separation quite hard. How can I help him through this?
- Allergy Anxiety
Because our eight-year-old son has a serious peanut allergy, we’ve been teaching all of our children the importance of food safety. At the same time, we don’t want to frighten them, especially the youngest, who freaks out when she sees nutty candy bars at the supermarket checkout. What’s the best way to handle this?
- Wondering About Religion
Our six-year-old has a strong aversion to religion, to the point where he gets upset when people pray or say grace in front of him. He says it’s because he doesn’t understand why someone would talk to someone they can’t see. While my husband and I aren’t particularly religious, my mother-in-law insists on buying him religious books, which he refuses to read. Will he be missing out on something crucial to his development if he doesn’t learn about religion?
- Kindergarten to Grade One Anxiety
The school year is almost over, but my six-year-old daughter still seems to be struggling with the transition to all-day school. She cries almost every day and isn’t able to cope with small disappointments, like not being first in line. I’m afraid this will get even worse over the summer and she’ll be starting grade two at a disadvantage. What’s going on? Can I do anything to help her?
- Imaginary Friends
Sprinkles, my six-year-old’s imaginary friend, has been with us for more than four years. About six months ago, my son realized Sprinkles had left him and he was distraught. Eventually he got over it, but today he whispered in my ear that Sprinkles is back. At what age do imaginary friends leave a child and should I do anything about this?
- Child with Sad Feelings
At times, my six-year-old son seems to be intensely sad. For example, today the story of Puff the Magic Dragon left him in tears. Other times, sadness will just seem to sweep over him and he’ll be non-communicative, maybe just wanting to be held. I have a history of depression myself, and I hate to think he’s destined to suffer in the same way.
- Excessive Hugging
Our seven-year-old is always hugging her classmates, whether they reciprocate or not. This was fine back in kindergarten, but now that she’s older, we’re worried it will alienate some of her friends. We hug her and say “I love you” daily, so we’re at a loss to explain why she constantly seeks affection.
- Constant Crushing
I babysit a seven-year-old girl who is obsessed with boys, crushes, love and dating. Her parents got divorced last year and both of them are now dating, which is affecting her. She’s big for her age and has been teased at school. I tell her that she’s beautiful and that she doesn’t need to worry about boys yet. Is there anything else I can do or say to help her through this troubled time?
- Remorseless Anger
My seven-year-old son got in trouble for invading a classmate’s personal space. His teacher dealt with the problem on the spot, but, like me, is puzzled over my son’s lack of remorse. He’s never acted this way before.
- Twirling Hair
My five-year-old daughter has played with her hair since she was a baby, twirling it as a form of comfort. However, in the past six months or so, she has taken to pulling it out in clumps. As far as I can tell, nothing is bothering her.
- Peep Shows
My five-year-old son has been caught playing “show and tell” with his genitals on several occasions, with two girls who are seven. While I don’t believe my son is completely innocent, I find these girls are incessantly trying to get him alone. I have spoken to my son, the girls and their parents, but can’t figure out how to make the behaviour stop. I’m running out of ideas and I don’t want to overreact.
- Understanding Death
My daughter recently passed away and now I am raising her children. The three-year-old boy is my main concern. He’s been potty trained for a while, but has started wetting the bed again, says no all the time, and doesn’t talk about his mom. How can I help him?
- Angry and Aggressive Emotions
My five-year-old son is continually taking and destroying things that don’t belong to him. He takes my makeup out of the bathroom, his sister’s iPod, whiteout from his teacher’s desk at school — anything he can get his hands on. This has been going on since he was about two.
- Bathroom Door Policy
We’ve always had an open-bathroom-door policy with our son, who is now four. At what point does it become inappropriate to dress or undress in front of your child?
- When Kids Hurt Themselves
My 3½-year-old has recently begun pinching herself hard enough to raise angry welts on her face and the backs of her hands. She’s just started junior kindergarten and I believe she may be feeling stressed.
- Aggressive Behaviour
From a very young age, my four-year-old son has had aggression issues. When he was a toddler, his doctor assured me that his biting was normal, but my son started school this year and I’m afraid he’s turning into the class bully. He also seems to enjoy pulling my hair and pinching me, and will usually lash out verbally when I tell him to stop. His behaviour worries me and I’m considering having him psychologically evaluated. Do you have any advice?
- Acting Like a Dog
Our three-year-old son thinks he’s a dog. He barks, howls, eats off the floor and likes to wear a dog leash on his pants to make a tail. He’ll eat dog food and dog treats, if he can get them. We always ask him to stop and even put him in time out, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
- Imaginary Play
My three-year-old has changed her name to Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and will not answer to anything else. This is not just at home, but at preschool and with other family members. She can get very upset and aggressive if you insist she is not Alice.
- Coping with Grief
Our cat died a few months ago and shortly after that, three fish died in quick succession. Lately my five-year-old has been obsessing about our dog, and she keeps insisting he’s not going to die — ever. How can I help her deal with her grief and understand that sometimes pets die?
- Afraid of Shadows
Because our four-year-old son has become very afraid of shadows, we have to leave a couple of lights on all night — not just a night light. To reassure him, we have said that shadows can’t hurt you, they aren’t ghosts or monsters, and he should try telling the things that scare him to “get out of my house.” Do you have any other suggestions?