"How do I help my child who is struggling emotionally, socially and with learning?"
Our society expects childhood to be a time of playfulness, happiness, and innocence. However, this is not to say that this age is without deep anxieties, sadness and difficulties. In fact, the reality for some children is that childhood is full of anxiety, anger and awkwardness. Opposition to parents, hostility at siblings, social struggles, and anxiety can feel so out of kilter with the idealised image of childhood. Parents can feel at a loss as to what to do.
When the child is struggling and stumbling through the tasks of childhood (to play, to learn, to share experience), intervention at this age may remove the impediments to growth and allow the cycle of achievement to kick in. Childhood is predominantly a time of growing, learning and acquiring skills. From about seven to eleven, ideally the child learns to make and keep friends; to conform to social norms; to engage in imaginative play and creative pursuits; to read well and write creative stories and perform arithmetical calculations; to be considerate of others and to function as a member of a family. Achievement at the tasks of childhood inspires self-esteem and provides the best launching pad for adolescence.
However, it is a delicate balance, and when things become out of balance, a cycle of perceived failure and struggle can stand in place of the cycle of accomplishment and pride. Things typically become out of balance when the emotions, thoughts and struggles experienced by the child are beyond the child's ability to process them.
The goal in working with children is for the child to become aware that the therapist is able to respect, understand and process the emotions, thoughts and struggles that emerge from the child's conversation, drawings and play. Through the processing of what comes up in the sessions, the child learns to process his/her own emotions, thoughts and struggles. This reduces anxiety, avoidance, aggression, impulsivity, hyperactivity or inattentiveness. In addition, through the relationship with the therapist, the child learns new, more adaptive, ways to be in interactions with others.
Working with parents is always a part of the treatment process when working with children. See the section on “Parents”.