Parents often bring their child for an evaluation because they are concerned about their child’s behavior or their child’s emotional adjustment. The behaviors may not significantly interfere with the child’s functioning, but may appear unusual for a child of that age. The behaviors may seem relatively mild, such as sadness or anxiety, or more severe, such as frequent temper outbursts. What should you do if the child’s other parent insists there isn’t a problem? You might start by providing educational materials that support the need for at least an assessment or possibly therapy. A meeting with the child’s primary care provider may also lend support for taking further action. Even so, we have seen that the other parent remains unwilling to read any of the suggested material or to meet with the healthcare provider.
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Together, parents can begin to identify areas of concern and even pick a date to review the child’s progress. If problems persist, then they might want to seek out guidance from a trusted teacher, healthcare professional, or mental health provider. However, sometimes a parent will still refuse to acknowledge there is a problem. Some parents view the presence of mental health problems as reflecting negatively on them. They may have had a negative experience with a mental health professional in the past. Sometimes they are worried that they have an undiagnosed problem that will be uncovered. Therapy shouldn’t be about blaming parents but about working together to find solutions. If you believe that your child is suffering, then you may have to make the choice to seek assistance for your child without the other parent’s consent. This is not optimal, but it also isn’t atypical. Sometimes the other parent will change their view of therapy once it starts, and that parent begins participating. Unfortunately, when one parent states that they do not want their child to proceed with therapy, then the mental health provider must stop treatment.
Here are some guidelines to help you make the right decision for you child. If the behavior has a significant risk of harm to the child or another, then it is important to seek assistance right away. These behaviors might include: suicidal statements, attempts, or actual self-injury, or persistent refusal to participate in school or other activities. If behavior problems are less severe, then you may monitor them and attempt to address them with your child. Having regular conversations with your child about your concerns may be helpful in leading to change. If you see that the behaviors are not changing or are getting worse, then an initial consultation with a professional may be beneficial. A child who is refusing to eat meals or is restricting what they are eating should be evaluated promptly, particularly if this is a change in behavior. Emotional distress can be more difficult to measure, as your child may have difficulty expressing feelings to you. Constant worrying may suggest an underlying anxiety disorder. Negative comments about oneself, limited peer interactions, being withdrawn, lack of confidence, and minimal interest in pleasurable activities may suggest depression. If you are unsure, it doesn’t hurt to have an assessment performed to gain a better understanding of how your child is doing. It is much easier to address issues when they are small, than when they have continued for an extended period of time and result in poor academic performance, development of negative habits, and/or deteriorating peer/family relationships. Early intervention is typically less expensive, requires less time for treatment, and may ultimately result in a better outcome.
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When Parents Don’t Agree On the Need For Psychotherapy
By Mark Todd, Ph.D.
December 2018-January 2019
Atlantic Psychological Practice ● 106 Milford Street, Suite 104 ● Salisbury, MD 21804 ● (410) 543-8291
CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2018. ATLANTIC PSYCHOLOGICAL PRACTICE, P.A. SM ALL RIGHTS RESERVED