The challenges of being a child
While many of us may remember our childhoods as simple and joyful unfortunately it’s not that easy for many children. Being a child can be difficult and complicated. For example, children must learn to …
- Fit in and be accepted by friends and classmates.
- Deal with academic pressure from exams, homework, and the expectation to succeed.
- Respond to difficult thoughts and feelings, which is particularly difficult for children and teens as their emotions feel more intense and they have less experience dealing with them.
- Adapt to changes in their bodies and deal with the social pressures on our appearances.
- Manage social media and online life which leaves them exposed to constant comparison, fear of missing out, and the risk of exposure to mature content.
- Face bullying or harsh behaviour.
- Experience other difficult life events that can happen to us. Including; ill health, break ups in relationships, changes in financial circumstances or bereavement.
- Decide who they are and understand how to navigate the world.
Given the challenges that children face it is not surprising that many of them could benefit from the support of a clinical psychologist.
How a clinical psychologist can help
Our clinical psychologists will meet with you and your child to understand what problems they are facing and decide which skills we need to teach them to resolve those problems.
We use skills and approaches that are from versions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that are adapted for younger clients. You can read about the theory and evidence behind CBT & ACT on our website.
If a child appears to be struggling or underperforming academically then we might recommend a learning assessment (also known as a neuropsychological assessment or psychoeducational assessment). This helps us understand their learning profile so we can recommend how to best teach them. A learning assessment can also help identify problems with speech and attention or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia that could be making school life difficult and may need specialist help and support.
How we help children of different ages
The age of a child and their developmental stage makes a big difference to the way we work. We always adapt our language and explanations to match the person we are working with but that’s even more important with children.
Sessions with older teenagers may look quite similar to those we have with adults because they are able to explain the situation to us, remember what we have spoken about and be able put what we have taught them into action (although we usually encourage them to let parents and teachers talk to us if we think that would help).
Younger children and some teenagers can find it difficult to explain what is wrong and they may not remember what we have told them during a meeting. This means that we need to work more closely with parents, teachers, and other carers to help them. We may need to ask questions of parents and teachers to better understand the problems the child is facing. We often need the parents or teachers help to reinforce the message or skills that we have been teaching children during our sessions.
Our sessions with younger children may also look quite different from those we have with adults. The sessions might seem playful, and your child might report enjoying ‘playing’ with their psychologist. However, this play has an important purpose and is structured to enable children to express their feelings and understand their experiences, using toys, drawing, and storytelling as tools.
We always tell children that what they say to us (their psychologist) stays private unless they give us permission to share. But we also explain that we will tell parents or guardians if we concerned that someone might get seriously hurt. We do this so that their parents or guardians can keep them safe even if the child does not want us to tell them.
There are good reasons why we offer confidentiality to all our clients (you can read more about confidentiality and our ethics guidelines here). It’s particularly important with children because we find children often hide important information from adults because they fear getting into trouble. By promising to keep their secrets it makes it much more likely they will tell us important information so that we can help them with it.
It sometimes takes a number of sessions before a child will trust us enough to tell us important information that they have been hiding. When we think the child is ready, we will encourage them to share (or allow us to share) important information with their parents or teachers. We explain why we think it would be helpful and how we would go about it but we only share the information if the child gives us permission to do so.
It can be frustrating for both parents, teachers, and their psychologist if the child is reluctant to share important information. However, our experience has shown that we get much better results by giving children the power to decide what they share. We have also found that most children will share information they have been hiding if the psychologist explains why it would be a good idea and how we will go about it.
Our clinical psychologists would be happy to meet with you and your child to talk through the problems they are facing and recommend the next steps. However, we understand that it can be difficult to decide who to trust with your child!
One option is to have the first meeting with our psychologist without your child being there. This means that you can talk more openly with our psychologists about the problems they are facing, and they can explain the different options available to help your child. It should also give you a chance decide whether you trust our clinical psychologist enough to bring your child along to meet them in a following session!
If you would like to meet with the psychologist without your child present, please let us know when you set up the initial appointment.
You can set up and appointment with one of our clinical psychologists by contacting our client liaison manager, Kae. You can contact Kae by WhatsApp or phone on 012 5089910. Or you can email her at email@example.com.