Family Therapy for School Age Children - Hilo, HI - Stephanie Dodge, PhDAre You Concerned About Your School-Aged Child and Your Family?

  • Has your child begun to struggle with school for the first time, socially, academically or both?
  • Is your child refusing to listen to you or follow rules at home?
  • Has your family experienced a significant change, such as a divorce or a loss, and now your child is acting out or withdrawing?
  • Are your children constantly fighting, and it seems more serious than simple sibling rivalry?
  • Do you and your co-parent disagree about the right way to parent?
  • Do you wish you could develop the patience and skills needed to be an effective parent and help your child succeed?

 

Parenting a school-aged child – 8-12 – can be an exhausting, complicated and confusing experience, especially if you thought that this was supposed to be the easiest age and are now faced with unexpected challenges. Maybe your child is acting out and exhibiting concerning behaviors. Or, perhaps your child seems withdrawn and disengaged, and you wonder why he or she is uninterested in everything. Your child might be struggling in school and getting into trouble with teachers. You may worry that if you don’t do something soon, your child will not have the tools he or she needs to do well in the future.

Perhaps your days are consumed by worry and chaos. Maybe it is a battle to get your child up and on the way to school. You may spend much of your day dreading a phone call from a teacher or principal. It can be challenging to stop thinking about your child and how he or she is doing, especially if you worry that the school is not a supportive environment. Maybe you can never predict what your child’s mood will be when you pick him or her up from school. You may feel as though you have tried everything, and frequently get into fights with your co-parent about how to best support your child. Perhaps you feel worn out and tired of facing judgment from teachers, other parents or just people in public who witness a tantrum. You might be unable to stop wondering what you are doing wrong.

Many School-Aged Children Face Challenges at School and at Home

Parenting is hard regardless of your child’s age. Many people believe that the years spent in elementary and middle school should be easier – a calm before the storm of puberty. But, this is not always the case. School-aged children are adapting to new challenges and adjusting to new tasks, especially as school gets more and more rigorous. Children in this age range often have more responsibility, but still lack the self-discipline they need to fulfill those responsibilities with ease. In addition, this age group faces new social demands. Girls are especially susceptible to new forms of bullying between peers.

If you are worried about your school-aged child, you are not alone. Many parents fear that if their child is struggling now, he or she may have trouble adapting to challenges and various circumstances throughout life. And, because of the perception that this age group should be easier, many parents feel a great deal of guilt when their child misbehaves or acts out in public. The good news is that you can develop the insights and tools needed to help your child and restore calm within your home. With help, you can begin to let go of guilt and self-blame and develop the parenting skills you need to best support your child.

Family Therapy for School-Aged Children Can Provide You With Support

Even though you may be feeling like an inadequate parent now, family therapy for school-aged children can help you realize that you are doing the best you can. You care about your child and his or her future. As a therapist, I can offer you an outside perspective and a path toward new solutions.

In sessions, I can help you and your co-parent (if he or she also attends) find compromise and establish a united front. If the other parent is uninterested in family therapy, I can help you and your child deal with the mixed messages that your family might be receiving and promote healthy, open communication. I can help the whole family cope with the challenges of separations and remarriages. If sibling rivalries are an issue, I can work with the whole family so that everyone can begin interacting with greater respect and care.

Throughout sessions, I will serve as a supportive coach and guide. I can help you help your child develop social skills so that he or she can lay a foundation for friendships and relationships. Your child’s choice of peers is one of the greatest predictors of good or bad outcomes in high school, and therapy can help you child choose and develop nurturing, safe relationships.

I can also help both you and your child develop relaxation, communication and emotional regulation skills. Through cognitive coping, you and your child can begin to practice effective problem solving. You can learn how to help motivate your child and manage his or her behavioral issues. I can also help you feel more empowered to advocate for your child outside of the home. If your child is approaching the teen years, it is especially important to prepare for the upcoming transitions (from moving from a one-teacher class to multiple classes/teachers in middle school to the changes in parenting that are needed as a child enters puberty). Family therapy for school-aged children can not only help to restore calm in your home now, but it can also help you lay a foundation for a harmonious parent-child relationship in the future.

Working with family systems is one of my areas of specialty, and I can offer you a compassionate environment to express your frustrations, emotions and fears. I am on your side, and I believe that you are an expert in your family’s life. You are doing a great thing by seeking help for your family and your child. With a little guidance and support, you can have a positive impact on your child’s life and help him or her succeed.

You may believe that family therapy for school-aged children can help you develop effective parenting skills, but still have questions or concerns…

I don’t have time for this.

While parenting often leads to a hectic schedule, I encourage you to consider how much time you dedicate to worrying about your child or working through tantrums. The time you dedicate to therapy will be an investment in a healthy, nurturing relationship with your child. By engaging in the therapy process and making effective changes, you can begin to enjoy the time you spend with your family.

I don’t want my child to be labeled.

Many parents fear the label of a learning disability or mental health issue. However, if your child is really suffering, a proper diagnosis is key to helping him or her get the support, services and treatment that he or she really needs. Your child may be struggling to adjust to a change at school or in the home. If so, an adjustment disorder diagnosis will not follow for your child throughout his or her life – it will just lead to more effective help now. While any labels can be scary, I invite you to imagine that you child has hurt his or her arm. Although no one wants a broken arm, you don’t want to treat a break with a Band-Aid. An assessment and diagnosis can lead to the correct form of treatment.

Why do we need family therapy for school-aged children? Why can’t you just work individually with my child?

Sometimes, children in elementary and middle school can benefit from individual counseling alone. However, sometimes, a child this age does not know or think that anything is wrong. If your child is used to getting his or her way, individual therapy might not help. It can also be helpful to look at the whole family system and figure out the way family relationships are influencing your child’s behavior. When the whole family is involved, everyone can be a part of the solution.

You and your family don’t have to struggle alone. I invite you to call (808) 747 3445 for a free 15-20-minute phone consultation. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about family therapy for school-aged children and my practice.

Other Information:

Boys Town: Parenting Principles

Boys Town:  T.I.M.E. for Technology

Boys Town: Game Over: What to Do When Technology Takes Over Quality Time

Boys Town: Making Your Morning Routines Manageable

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: School Refusal

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Home Alone Children