Counseling for the preschool aged child
Should I consult a therapist for my very young child? Won’t s/he ‘grow out of it?’
Maybe...but there is a careful balance to be maintained here. Although we don’t want to ‘pathologize’ young children, we want to be attuned to when they are hurting. Preschool-aged children typically don’t express their suffering verbally. When they are not doing well, they can show withdrawn, distracted, aggressive or uncooperative behavior. Or they might complain about aches, not sleep or eat well...
The phrase: ‘She or he will grow out of it,’ often masks a discomfort, an inability or indifference to explore the issue at hand. If there is a concern, it is important to take the time to listen to the parent and the child. No child is ever too young to be listened to!
Let’s stop thinking in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad!’
Parents might be inclined to perceive consulting a therapist about their child as a personal failure. The parenting book industry and the constant emergence of new parenting fads seems to suggest a right way to be a good parent, leading to feelings of guilt when parents are struggling.
No child is ever too young to be listened to!
It would be better to follow the example of the great French child psychoanalyst Francoise Dolto who encourages us to forget about any preconceived notions we might have about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parenting. There are just parents and their children. Together they try to navigate the challenges of their continuously changing relationship, attempting to find creative solutions along the way.
No book is written on the right way for you to parent your child. It is up to you to invent. Sometimes for one reason or other we all get stuck. Consulting about this might be a first step towards getting 'unstuck.'
Some issues a therapist might help children and parents with: