Identify Early The Cause of Your Child’s Misbehavior
Written by KAFSC Staff Member, Jenny Kim, Mental Health Counselor
Over the last few months, our clinical team has seen an increase in hotline calls and caseloads from parents. The parents who contact us are concerned for their children who do not go to school, are regularly using drugs like marijuana, and/or show anger through fighting and violent behaviors. Although KAFSC has services available to families who are already experiencing these kinds of issues with their children, the sooner parents can detect a need in their children and intervene with professional services, the more effective the intervention will be. Early detection and early intervention is very crucial and important for children. Because younger children are still under the care and watch of their parents, intervention is somewhat easier for them, especially for counseling. However, when a parent brings their adolescent child to us, it is often difficult for change to occur without long term help. Early detection can help children learn coping skills, sharpen social skills, and work through the emotional issues that may be presenting in the form of behavioral problems, like fighting or not going to school. Often behind the problematic behaviors of children, there is loneliness and hurt. There is usually a reason why children are not going to school, whether it is because of bullying, lack of social support, or difficulty with school work. The lack of care and attention at home can be a factor as well. The earlier the trouble is detected, the faster parents can intervene with professional help. Some warning signs include continual somatic problems (i.e. headache, stomachs), stealing, social withdrawal, hoarding, persistent lying, fighting, and drinking or drug use. Early intervention allows for counselors to work directly with parents, school counselors, and teachers to guide the child. For instance, as the child’s counselor, we can advocate for the child’s needs in school settings by going to the school with the parent to visit the school counselor on the child’s behavioral and academic standing.
Without early detection and intervention, behavioral change becomes a challenge. Counseling with adolescents can be especially hard. Adolescence is an important stage in life when identity is forming and social pressures are abundant. And because counseling is often involuntarily from the child’s perspective, the adolescent can feel that it is being forced by parents, which can generate resistance. Furthermore, the stigma that counseling is for crazy people may be more profound for young adolescents, rather than children, consequently leading them to refuse counseling. By adolescence, opinions are stronger and attitudes are established from previous experiences. Thus once the child enters adolescence, the child is more likely to distrust and resist professional help, at least at the start. Adolescents want to be independent from their parents and authority figures. And because adolescence is a stage when the child has more control over their choices, the adolescent’s willingness to change is important. Subsequently, habitual behaviors such as skipping school are harder to change. When your child misses school for several days, it is a critical time to seek professional help, because what can be seen as a minor problem can lead to major problems once the child reaches adolescence and starts missing school for months.
There are many benefits in detecting emotional and behavioral problems early and intervening early. Early detection and early intervention can help children and adolescent build social skills, learn to verbally express emotions and feelings, find validation and support in the issues they face, and develop other important life skills. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it allows parents to become better guides and support systems in their child’s development. Don’t wait for your child’s behaviors to become a major problem before seeking help, the best kind of intervention is done sooner rather than later.
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