When should I see a psychologist for my child?

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Help your child (and yourself) understand what is going on

Children, like adults, benefit from psychology services to either identify the source of a behavioral, emotional or a learning problem, or to help them develop strategies for coping with stressful events.

Josh, a 10 year-old boy in grade 4, is a friendly child who was doing well academically during his first years in school. However, in grade 4, Josh started complaining about stomach aches or headaches in the morning before going to school. His parents and teachers noted that he looks sad sometimes, and that he spends less time with friends. Although he tries hard and he works every day at home to complete school work, his marks are declining. His teacher noted that he is absent-minded at school, and that he gives up easily when facing a novel problem.

Josh’s parents decided to talk with a psychologist about their concerns about Josh’ academic decline and social withdrawal. They decided to have a psychoeducational assessment for Josh that would look into both their academic and behavioral concerns. The results of the assessment indicated that Josh was identified with a learning disability that became more prevalent when grade expectations increased. Josh was a smart boy who was able to learn and keep his marks up during the first grades; however his increased effort with lower academic results made Josh feels that he is not capable enough. He compared himself with his friends and he blamed himself for not being successful.

The psychologist’s assessment offered a different light for Josh to look at himself. He was provided with support and strategies in school and his academic performance increased. In addition, Josh’s parents accessed therapy services for Josh to give him more emotional support and to teach him strategies to increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety related to school work.

Many children start blaming themselves when they cannot keep up with curriculum expectations. They feel they are not smart enough, they start avoiding going to school and they don’t enjoy being with friends anymore. They may complain about health issues frequently with no real concern. Parents notice a difference in their child’s behavior, and often their concerns are confirmed by teachers.

So when should parents consult with a psychologist? As a parent, you know your child best and you can tell that something is different with them. When a child displays behaviors underlying an emotional or academic problem, the sooner it is identified and treated, the better the outcome.

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