Is it ever too early to seek therapy for my child?

In light of the tragic student suicides at Greenwich High School and Westhill High School (Stamford), I thought it was important to answer a vital question many parents have..."Is it ever too early to seek therapy for my child"?

In my opinion the answer is a resounding NO. By nature, most adolescents have a hard time coming right out and saying that they are struggling and need help. Instead most young people demonstrate that they are dealing with a problem or negative emotion by acting out. "Acting out" can defined as doing something to attrack the attention of a caring adult- whether parent, guardian, teacher or doctor. Adolescents are saying "Hey- pay attention to me. I don't know how to articulate what's wrong so I need you to figure it out and ask me about it."

Adolescents act out in a variety of ways (not limited to the list below):

  • a drop in grades

  • withdrawing from family and friends​

  • spending too much time outside of the home

  • spending more time on the computer engaged in unproductive activities

  • showing a decrease in motivation in activities they once enjoyed

  • increased irritability or significant change in mood

Adolescents can also engage in more high risk activities:

  • skipping classes or school

  • general rule breaking

  • substance use/abuse

  • restrictive or binge eating

  • breaking curfew

  • non-suicidal self-injurious behavior- commonly known as "cutting"

  • sexual intercourse outside the bounds of a relationship

Any of the above may be a sign that your adolescent is struggling with a negative emotion(s) or situation. As a parent, it is your job to read the clues and talk to your child aobut your observations. When beginning this conversation, don't demand answers! Instead point out the differences in thier behavior, let your adolescent know that you are concerned about them and ask them to help you understand what's going on. You may get the answer "nothing" several times. Don't give up. Your adolescent may not be prepared to answer your questions. However, if their answers are beyond what you, as a parent can address, it may be time to seek professional assistance.

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