Like adults, children can suffer from emotional disorders. A specific branch of mental health, child psychology focuses on certain problems and disorders common in children and teens. Child psychology can help smooth out difficult transitions in a child’s life as well as provide assistance for families dealing with behavioral problems.
While many counselors may provide counseling for children, professionals that specialize in child psychology focus their education and ongoing training on dealing with the problems commonly found in individuals under the age of 18 years. Your medical doctor, child’s teacher or family counselor may suggest you schedule an appointment with a child psychologist to help deal with behavioral problems, learning difficulties or family situations that can affect your child’s mental health and emotional development.
While all children develop at slightly different rates, standard guidelines provide educators and physicians with average ages for certain developmental milestones. Children who consistently measure behind the average rate of development may require medical testing as well as psychological testing and therapy.
Certain behaviors in children can indicate the presence of a mental, emotional or learning disorder. A child psychologist can help you determine the cause of your child’s inability to focus in class, as well as help your child deal with irrational fears that may limit his enjoyment and participation in sports and social activities. A child psychologist may also outline an action plan to help parents and teachers deal with behavioral problems at home and at school.
Your child’s treatment depends on a number of factors including your child’s personal history, individual personality and learning style. Some disorders, such as attention deficit disorder and anxiety disorders, may require prescription medication. Discuss the pros and cons of any medications with your child’s psychologist to help you understand how they may help or harm your child.
Oftentimes, successful child psychology relies heavily on parental participation. While dysfunctional family relationships can negatively influence a child’s development, positive parenting can have a beneficial impact. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents promote optimal relationships with children by maintaining a positive emotional balance and practicing flexibility. Parental actions that may promote healthy development in children include active listening, positive reinforcement, consistency, warmth and affection. Talk to your child’s psychologist about ways you can help with any necessary counseling or behavioral therapy.