In a previous article concerning stress and anxiety in children, I suggested some ways parents could help their children cope.
Another concern people often ask about is when to seek help. How do I know when a problem can be managed on my own versus when I could benefit from professional support?
There is no harm done by taking your child or yourself to see a therapist. A therapist can teach your child techniques to handle stress and anxiety and also address any more serious concerns.
We are so accustomed to stress that we often don't seek help until we hit 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
We are so busy and disconnected from our bodies and emotions that stress doesn't even register in our awareness until we're around a 7 or 8.
As a therapist, I can certainly help at an 11, but I'd rather help before then.
Secondary to providing relief from the immediate stress, we also want to help re-calibrate the "stress-o-meter," so you can tell you're experiencing stress before it gets to such a harmful level.
Does your child's stress and anxiety seem unmanageable? Is it occurring more days than not? Is it causing a desire to avoid school or otherwise enjoyable activities? Do you suspect that bullying may be the cause? Are the stress and anxiety manifesting as physical concerns like recurrent stomach aches or insomnia?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," you should seek out a therapist that specializes in working with children.
How do you find a good therapist in your area? Search online and ask around for referrals from friends. Bonus! You'll be helping fight the stigma that keeps us from seeking help.
Don't feel pressured into picking the first therapist you see. Feeling comfortable with your therapist is one of the most important components of the therapy equation. It's OK to shop around.
Seek help from your child's school. Your child's school counseling department may offer official evaluations, or you can seek an independent psychological evaluation, after which your child can qualify for an individualized education plan, which requires that teachers provide necessary accommodations.
Some states also have independent education consultants that can help navigate these situations.
Above all, if you suspect that you or your child could use some additional support to manage stress and anxiety, reach out for help. Thankfully, this is not something that we have to do alone.
Melanie Storrusten is the owner and therapist with Align Wellness Solutions in Atlanta. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.alignwellnessatl.com