Helping Kids Help Themselves

Although I wish it were not so, the sad fact is that some children have a very tough home life. In addition to other problems (like learning disabilities, poverty, difficulties with peers), their parents either do not care about their problems or do not have the skills to help. Kids in this situation often feel hopeless but there are things they can do. Thus, this tip is about helping kids help themselves.

One of my first suggestions is for them to ask their parents if they would be willing to take them to see a counselor. Parents often are helping kidslooking for ways they help and counselors are a good resource. However, it is important to find a counselor who fits well with their needs. Toward that end, I recommend a counselor who is willing to work with the family on more than just medication.

Many counselors work in conjunction with psychiatrists and family physicians so that people get both the medication and the counseling they need. This is especially important when medication issues are tricky. Some people do not do well with medication or, if they do, they need to discover which medication works best for them. A good counselor can help coordinate these decisions with a physician as well as providing useful behavioral skills that can assist in alleviating pain.

If a counselor is not an option, then my next suggestion for kids is to seek assistance at their schools. In the United States, most schools have counselors who are willing and able to assist students either individually or in groups. They also can run interference with parents so that students get the help they need. If nothing else, the school counselor can let students know what resources are available.

Another avenue for help is though reading books about anxiety, depression and self-esteem. In addition to descriptions of those conditions (geared toward helping people understand why they are feeling the way they do), there are many workbooks that provide exercises people can do themselves. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one such solution. CBT helps people see the dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors and emotions that are causing such harm and then working to correct them through a variety of techniques. It is one of the most thoroughly researched and empirically validated therapies used today, so it may be a good choice.

Another option to consider is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT helps people accept painful situations, assess their own values and then commit to acting on them so that their lives will be more fulfilling. Many people who don’t find CBT to be helpful do well with ACT or sometimes they use both approaches together.

Talking with friends is another option for kids. Positive interactions with peers is essential during youth (really, at any age) and having supportive ears and shoulders can help people to feel understood. My only concern is that the kids providing the aforementioned ears and shoulders make sure that they maintain appropriate boundaries and don’t let other people’s burden overwhelm them. Sometimes it can be a challenge to enjoy our own lives when someone we care about is suffering. We all need to do what we can to help and then let the rest be up to them.

Share Your Thoughts