Counselling helps improve your child’s behaviour
In Asia, seeking counselling is still a taboo for many families who associate it with mental sickness.
“Because of the social stigma of counselling, Asian parents only seek counselling for their children when they could no longer manage the issues,” said Citrix Chee, counsellor at Kang Ren Counselling Services.
But sometimes these “problems” could have been easily resolved when it was just a miscommunication or misunderstanding.
She sees a lot of clients when they are already in a critical situation, i.e. with a tendency to commit suicide or feeling extreme hopelessness and anger, as the parents had viewed their issues as a passing phase or did not understand the developmental stage of their child. The delay in getting help had escalated a resolvable problem to a crisis!
Ms Chee, who has a Masters in Counselling, urged that if your child exhibits any of these warning signs, send him/her for counselling* immediately:
- Refusal to attend school
- Loss of interest in anything
- Greatly reduced or no appetite
- Packing or giving away personal possessions
- A sudden change to negative behaviour, eg. withdrawn, irritable, angry, isolation
- Writing or leaving notes to parents
- Saying things like “when I’m not around, take care of my dog.”
She said that when the parents have done their best, but there are still no visible signs of improvement from the above behaviour, then it is vital that a child seek professional help.
She added that the earlier the problem is detected; the counsellor can teach them the relevant skills to cope or manage the problems.
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Mainstream counselling can ease the problem at an earlier stage
Today, with mounting pressure from work and education stress, she is seeing more families seeking counselling. However, Ms Chee, who is a former school teacher, said that most parents will seek counselling for their kids but not for themselves.
Yet, during her sessions with the children, she found that their “misbehaviours” were symptomatic and reflective of a greater tension at home, such as parental discord or break down in the communication channel between parent and child.
Children who witness regular quarrelling between their parents or disputes between mom and maid or in-law may feel stressed or worried.
They may also feel misunderstood, unheard, or blamed for situations that are beyond their control, and manifest their anger in extreme behaviours (see below).
Sometimes, the problem is rooted within the family unit. Ms Chee encourages families to seek therapy the moment “something does not feel right”, as early intervention can prevent the problem from becoming a critical issue.
She cited a couple who was constantly fighting and the mother was very bad-tempered and often uses vulgarities on the children and husband. After 10 years of marriage, the husband threatened to leave the marriage.
During the counselling sessions, they discovered that the root problem was actually anger management. Had they engaged a counsellor earlier, they might have saved themselves years of fighting and angst.
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So why should you consider counselling?
Ms Chee, who has a Masters in Counselling, practices Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help her clients identify the root cause of their unhappiness and guide them to find solutions to deal with it. People who undergo this method usually experience improvements emotionally and psychologically.
Here’s how counselling can benefit you:
- Express your Problem – it is very therapeutic to share and confide in a third party. After voicing out the issue, you can then acknowledge it.
- Reflect upon your Problem – Once the problem has been surfaced or shared, you can consider alternative behaviours to generate a different outcome.
- Work on a Solution – when you deal with your past, you can move on. The counsellor works with you to find different measures to deal with your issues.
- Professional Setting – in a professional counselling space, the clients are more open to listen to each other or confide as they feel they are in a non-judgemental space. This kind of therapy is usually very effective unless the client is in deep denial; counselling will not help if they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem.
- Learn Communication Skills – this is especially helpful for couples or children who learn to communicate their needs to their parents.
How can counselling help with your child’s behaviour?
Children who are troubled usually manifest in these 3 common extreme behaviours:
- Refusal to go to school – because of bullying, teasing (too fat, too tall or grades too low), inability to adjust to primary school life
- Tantrums – kicking the door or banging their head when they are angry
- Depression – younger children especially between 5 – 12 years, may be stressed over failing academics
As a professional, the counsellor listens to the child, is able to recommend strategies to deal with the problem, and has unconditional positive regard for the child (i.e. believe that he/she is telling the truth).
Ms Chee says it takes a neutral person to bridge the communication between parent and child. Kids, she said, are more inclined to tell the counsellor the truth because they perceive the counsellor as a third, non-judgemental party.
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Can parents counsel their own children?
It is difficult because of the conflict of interest between parent and child. Ms Chee said that a parent can counsel his/her child only if he/she can remain detached, non-judgemental and professional.
Seek Counselling for any of the following reasons
- Depression or suicidal feelings
- Feel they need professional view
- Need a non-judgmental listening ear – sexual orientation, marital relationships
- Elderly who are lonely and may have addictions – gambling, shopping
- Improve the way they communicate – anger management,
- Teenagers who have suffered heartbreak in a boy-girl relationship (girls more than boys)
- Emotional Problems like depression, prenatal or post-partum issues, grieving