We are often asked questions such as what signs parents can look out for to indicate that their child is struggling, what happens during a support session and how does it help.
Read our most frequently asked questions below and get in touch if you feel that your child needs some professional support.
What can parents look out for in their children?
Mental health is a term used to cover a broad range of issues which may be affecting a child or young person. It allows us to provide a label to something that is an issue. Sometimes that really helps and sometimes it can leave us feeling in need of reassurance.
We think about mental health as something which we can understand, support and positively affect. When we think about a child’s emotional health and wellbeing, parents often know immediately when their child isn't feeling ‘ok’.
Parents may notice a change in mood, appetite or desire to do things. They may see a change in behaviour, in school or at home, or that their child has become withdrawn suddenly or over a period of time.
Parents may notice that their child seems to feel the need to be in control in a way they weren't before, or that they become obsessive about their eating habits or appearance.
At bccs, we trust the gut instinct of parents and so when a parent tells us that something is bothering their child, they are usually right.
If a parent is worried about their child - what can they do?
If a parent is concerned about changes they have seen in their child - we would encourage them to talk to their child.
We work with children on a daily basis and there is always a sense of relief experienced by a child or young person when we show an interest in understanding what it is like to be them.
So, we would say to parents to put their best-placed assumptions aside and ask their child what it feels like to be ‘them’ at that moment.
When parents do this, we encourage them to try to be calm and to try to make sure that they have time and space to respond to what their child is being brave enough to share.
What parents and children can expect from a support session with us.
Once a parent or carer contacts us and we feel they or their child needs further support, we will offer them an initial assessment.
It is vital that we understand their concerns about their child or young person, and that we understand how they think about their child.
From there, we will determine the best form of support, whether that be to the parent or carer, to the child individually or to the family as a whole.
The child or young person will be allowed the time and space to explore, verbally or through art or play, just what it is that they feel is troubling them.
We are committed to working alongside the child for as long as is deemed necessary.
What is happening when a child starts to talk?
We believe that talking cures all. Sometimes, however, it is less about talking and more about what happens to a child or young person when they are being listened to.
When we respond, we allow our child or young person the opportunity to know that they are heard and recognised and that we can deal with anything they have to tell us.
When children and young people talk, they are able to externalise a concern, thought or feeling that they may have felt they needed to keep bottled up.
Talking makes things feel better because it allows someone, in whatever context a conversation happens, to feel they have been heard and responded to.
As adults, we do this quite readily to a partner or a friend, 'letting off steam' about the day we have had, the difficulties we have experienced and the pressure we feel we are under and, as a result, we feel ‘lighter’, listened to and less burdened.
It is exactly the same for children and young people.
When words don't come - we use other therapies to communicate.
Sometimes children and young people just don’t know, or they don’t have the words to convey what it feels like to be them - that’s where we come in.
Parents can be of use here too: we encourage them to let their child know that they understand things feel too big, that they are overwhelming, difficult to give words to, but that they want to help.
There are ways to communicate other than by talking and with young children we often use play and art in our therapy sessions.
Play is the natural means of communication for a child; it is their intuitive language and essential for growth and development, and so it is understandable that play can be used as a natural and non-threatening way for the child to express their feelings.
For the child who is unable to vocalise their thoughts, play can facilitate expression without the need for verbal explanations - it enables the child’s story to be told at their own pace.
The therapist’s role is to enable the child to express themselves through role play, art or music and using a variety of carefully chosen media which may include sand, clay, objects, toy animals or sensory materials.
Thoughts, feelings and fantasies following traumatic experiences can be played out using the child’s imagination, symbolism and metaphor. Events and past experiences can be re-enacted and repeated without the child feeling overwhelmed, or worrying about harming themselves or others.
Play in therapy can help the child through easing communication, in repairing relationships and in building resilience, confidence and a sense of being in control.
It can help the child gain a fuller sense of themselves, understanding their emotions and past experiences better.