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How young is too young for therapy? Q & A with Dr. Ramey

Question

What is the youngest that you can take a child to therapy?  My three-year-old girl has been a behavior problem since the day she was born.  I know she needs help, even though our pediatrician tells me she is normal. How do you get a child that young to talk with you and tell you what’s wrong?

Answer

Mental health professionals are trained to help children of all ages.  Please speak with your family doctor and insist upon a referral to a professional who specializes in working with young children.

While some of the session will be spent with your daughter, you will need to be actively involved in therapy. Talking with very young children doesn’t change their behavior.  Parents are the key to diagnosing and treating young children.  This doesn’t mean that you are the cause of the problem, but you must be an active part of the solution.

I’m also concerned by your comment that your daughter was a ‘behavior problem’ from birth. I’ve not heard parents talk about infants in that way. Please seek help right away.

Question

My fifteen-year-old son doesn’t like to visit his dad every other weekend. His father tells me that things are great during the visits, but that’s not the story I hear when my son comes home. He complains about missing his friends and not being able to go to school events since his dad lives an hour away.  Should I try to work something out with my ex?

Answer

Visitation becomes more difficult during the high school years, requiring lots of compromise and communication among divorced parents and kids. However, this is not your problem to solve. Your son needs to learn how to work this out with his dad.

Encourage your son to speak directly with his father. If he refuses, offer to participate in the discussion, but let your son express his own point of view. If your son refuses both options, consider a few sessions of counseling with all family members to work out a better visitation arrangement.

Your son may be reluctant to be involved in any of those options, in which case he’ll have to just adjust to the current situation.  Please don’t be tempted to rescue your son by speaking with your ex-spouse without your son’s active involvement.

Question

My sixteen-year-old son has played sports since he was a little boy and is now obsessed with what happened at Penn State with that coach abusing those boys. He reads and watches everything about it. Don’t tell me to talk with my son, because I’m not comfortable with that.

Answer

Your son is sending you a message and his needs are more important than your uncomfortable feelings about sexual abuse.  As a parent you have an obligation to speak with your son about this topic. If your conversation gives you any indications of concerns, contact a mental health professional.

Next week:  How to Live a Long Life!

 

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