Having a child can be the most positive experience in an individual's life. The moment you first see your newborn's face cannot possibly be put into words. The birth of your child is marked by euphoria, mindfulness and an immense sense of responsibility.
As the days and months pass by parents quickly realise that unfortunately children and teenagers do not come with a manual. Parenting is not always straight forward or clear and sometimes the rules change. This can make parenting for the first time a daunting and scary experience. There are so many unknowns and questions when raising children:
"When should we start toilet training?"
"How can I promote my child's self-esteem?"
"Should my children sleep in their own bed?"
"What are the best ways to handle misbehaviour?"
"How much iPad time it too much?"
"Why does my teenage child want to spend less time with us now? Are we doing something wrong?"
"My child doesn't look me in the eyes, should I be worried?"
This is just a brief example of some of the questions racing though most parent's minds. There is an infinite amount of other concerns which parents are faced with day to day. Many parents have the same concerns about their children and it can be difficult to know what a regular part of a child's development is, as opposed to something you should be concerned about.
For instance, many children can go through periods of being scared to sleep at night or separating from their parents. To some extent this can be an expected part of child development. However, in other instances where a child is excessively anxious or afraid for extended periods, or following trauma, it can be essential that families seek professional help.
True also is the complexity of understanding the teenage years. Parents can be overwhelmed with the dramatic physical and emotional changes in their adolescent child over a relatively short amount of time. Teenagers can become moody, withdrawn and they can isolate themselves from family. In some circumstances this can be an expected part of development. It may be the natural path your child is taking as they transition from a a dependent child to an independent young adult. However, such social and emotional changes in extremes can also be a hallmark feature of mental health decline, such as depression and anxiety.
Since there is no parenting manual to assist in raising your child, professional help and guidance can be beneficial to some families. Child and Adolescent Psychologists can provide an objective perspective and professional advice. While Psychologists often work with individuals, in the paediatric and adolescent arena it can be important to involve other family members such as parents and even siblings. Of course, this would depend on the individual circumstances of the client and it would need to be clinically appropriate as well as with consent.
For instance, children with emotional regulation difficulties and anger outburst can benefit greatly from individual psychological support from qualified clinicians. However, the younger the child the more likely that a parent will be involved more actively in the sessions with a Psychologist. This allows parents to learn the strategies taught to the child also and assist their children to implement them day to day. Parent involvement also allows for Mum and Dad to draw on the extensive knowledge of Child Psychologists to broaden their own knowledge.
Parent involvement in adolescent sessions would depend on the teenager providing consent. In many instances clinicians can encourage teenage clients to involve their parents or consent to Psychologists providing feedback to Mum and Dad. In several ways this can promote positive outcomes for the individual, as it allows parents to gain a greater understanding of their child's needs and perspective. It can also further develop communication skills and independence.
It is also important to note that, while children do not come with a manual, parents can use Child and Adolescent Psychologists as an interactive manual for childhood development. They can request individual sessions with clinicians for psychological consultation and advice about parenting even if their child is not seeing a professional. This can be helpful for mothers and fathers as it can guide them in best practice with parenting or how to respond to emotional and social changes. It can also be helpful for parents to seek advice with assisting their children during life changes such as how to best parent after separation.
There are many ways Child Psychologists can help families. Clinicians can work with individuals or groups. The can assist one family member or many. They can give parenting and developmental advice to put things in perspective. While there is no parenting manual we can guide you on your parenting journey.
Contact us today on 02 4929 2223 or email us for further information.
Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt is the Principal Clinical Psychologist of Oracle Psychology in Newcastle, NSW.