being a parent
Being a parent is challenging for everyone at different times. There are the new challenges that arise as children pass through different stages of development. It is quite something to consider a child's 'journey' from the dependency of infancy right through to becoming young adults. There are other challenges that might arise at any time in a child's life that are to do with specific difficult experiences such as a bereavement or the break-up of the relationship between their parents.
There are many things that help us through the more challenging times as parents. One fundamental thing is being able to make enough family time so that parents and children can 'be in touch' with one another over how everyone is. Having time to talk and share how things are. Having time just to be together.
Another important matter is having support as parents. Mothers and fathers being able to support one another. Also the support of extended family and friends sometimes being just as important. It really helps having different people to talk things through with.
the developing child
Below is an outline of some of the typical milestones and challenges for children as they pass through different stages of development with the help and support of their parents.
Early Childhood: 0-5 years
- forming a secure attachment as a baby
- the weaning from breast/ bottle feeding to solid foods
- beginning to develop a sense of self as a toddler
- managing potty-training
- coping with early separations such as with the start of a playgroup or nursery
- learning to play with other children
- preparing for the start of primary school
Middle childhood: 5-12 years
- becoming established at school
- growing in confidence with learning
- developing friendships
- starting to form a more independent sense of self
- having more interests outside home such as with clubs or other activities
- managing new separations such as with sleepovers or school trips
- experiencing the start of puberty
- preparing for the transition to secondary school
adolescence through to young adulthood: 13-25 years
- experiencing physical and sexual development
- the growing importance of peer groups
- developing greater independence from family
- experiencing changing relationships with parents
- managing learning and exams
- concern with identity- finding out who you are as a young person
- interest in relationships
- preparing for college or university
- entering the world of work
- leaving home and experiencing living independently
typical difficult experiences for children
There are many specific difficulties that children might experience growing up that will also present particular challenges to parents. Below are some typical ones:
- serious illness or problems with physical health
- difficulties in parental relationship
- family breakdown
- parental mental health issues
- traumatic experiences such as with a serious accident
- experiences of abuse
- frequents moves and/ or changes of school
when to seek help?
As an ordinary part of growing up children will experience times of difficulty. Often through talking with their parents and other important people in their lives the difficulties will simply be overcome. However, sometimes children can become 'stuck' over the difficulties that they are experiencing. Parents can then feel unsure about how to help their child through the problems that are causing them distress. It is in such circumstances that it might be appropriate to consider seeking therapeutic help. The following are concerns for which parents often seek help for their children:
- low confidence and poor self-esteem
- difficulties making friends
- challenging behaviour and aggressive outbursts
- self harming and/ or suicidal feelings
- obsessional ideas/ rituals
- problems managing with learning and education
- eating difficulties
- problems to do with sexual or gender identity
what child psychotherapy can offer?
In seeking help it is crucial for parents to be able to turn to a form of therapy in which they can have real confidence.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that is long established and is a core part of Child and Adolescent Mental Health provision across the country. A substantial body of research attests to Child and Adolescent psychotherapy being a highly effective form of treatment for a wide range of emotional difficulties.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists have a long and intensive training that is undertaken after a first career working with children (typically in the field of Education, Social Work or Psychology). Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are members of the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) which is recognised by the Department of Health for the accreditation of training in Child Psychotherapy throughout the United Kingdom. The ACP is registered with the Professional Standards Authority.
A Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist's way of understanding psychological problems is shaped by psychoanalytic ideas about how children develop emotionally. A key psychoanalytic idea is that emotional development -and the formation of who you are- is shaped by unconscious and conscious mental processes from infancy. The child develops their own 'internal' world of thoughts and feelings. This 'internal' world is shaped by the child's experiences and, in turn, influences how they experience the world around them.
Emotional problems tend to arise when difficult experiences get stuck with the child's 'internal' world of thoughts and feelings. This troubled coming together of difficult experiences and the child's 'internal' world can present real barriers to the child’s development. Helping with the emotional problems involves bringing the 'internal' thoughts and feelings to light. The thoughts and feelings can then be worked through and the child will then be able to move on with their development.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists can offer help in a number of different ways. The help that they offer includes:
- individual psychotherapy for children and adolescents
- parent-child psychotherapy
- parent work
For more detail on Child Psychotherapy the ACP have produced their own guide for parents and carers:
taking a first step
The first step would be to make an initial contact in relation to the possibility of having a consultation. One of the Therapists from the consortium would get in contact to think with you about whether it might be helpful for you to have a consultation to discuss your concerns.
The purpose of a consultation is to think in detail with you the the difficulties that your child is experiencing and to consider whether on-going therapeutic help might be appropriate. Sometimes a single consultation is enough to help work out a way that your child might be able to move on from the difficulties that they are experiencing. If further help is needed we would think through with you what kind of therapeutic help is likely to be most appropriate.
Taking the step of seeking help can make all the difference to your child being able to overcome the difficulties that are troubling them. Overcoming difficulties will enable your child to be freer to fulfil their potential.