Stages and phases often describe childhood and adolescence. Children are continually growing and developing. Learning new skills, reaching new milestones. Children are poor self-reporters of what’s wrong in their lives, leaving parents to recognize the clues. It can be a difficult, confusing process, deciphering individual needs and knowing when a child is simply adjusting to new life circumstances, or in need of help.
Teenagers increased autonomy can challenge our ability to stay in-tune and a part of their lives. They are no longer solely connected to us, as outside influences weigh heavier. Teenagers experience many of the same struggles as adults; depression, anxiety, unresolved grief, anger issues, trauma. Additionally, Teenagers can find themselves inexperienced, or ill-equipped to manage a variety of life circumstances or challenges, uncertain and sometimes afraid to ask for help.
Signs a teen is having difficulties may involve changes in mood or behavior such as:
- Drop in grades
- Loss of interest in, or conflicts with, family and friends
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Shifts in mood such as sadness, irritability, anger or extreme sensitivity
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Engaging in disruptive or risky behaviors
- Statements or reported thoughts of death, dying or suicide
- Loss of concentration
- Use of alcohol or drugs
In my work with teens I strive to listen, validate, foster growth and help young people develop their voice. I often involve parents in my work with teens, recognizing that communication can become strained at this stage and fostering support from the people who know them best. Some teenagers are eager to rush ahead and may need reminders and help staying connected. Other teenagers find it difficult to “step out” and require extra support developing confidence and independence.
Treatment with children often looks different than treatment with adolescents or adults. Less emphasis is placed on talking, with a greater use of games and play techniques to facilitate development, learning and self-confidence.
Identifying children in need of help can be difficult, but signs may include:
- Acts of aggression towards self or others
- Difficulties with self-control or emotional regulation
- Fearfulness or avoidance
- Behavior problems in school
- Difficulties making friends
- Sleep difficulties
- Arguing and defiance
In my work with children I am generally warm and playful, utilizing skills and techniques developed from play therapy, family systems, parent support models and a knowledgeable foundation in child development. Working with children often requires patience, a kind and gentle nature, and a willingness to sit on the floor.
For many years I specialized in helping children and adolescents overcome the effects of sexual and physical abuse. I have also developed particular skill and expertise helping boys improve communication skills and manage behavior.