Therapy with Children

February 13, 2023

Therapy with ChildrenBy Gina CiprianoStages of Childhood DevelopmentErik Erikson proposes that people move through several stages during their lifetime (Wong et al.,2020). In these phases, a child could benefit from successfully overcoming a common conflict to develop as a person.Infancy: Ages 0-1 ½: Trust versus MistrustAt this stage, an infant learns to trust or mistrust their caregiver. If the stage is not successful, they can become overly trustful or distrustful of others (Wong et al.,2020). The goal of this stage is for an infant to reasonably trust that they will be cared for and to reasonably question different experiences, but they can explore new environments under the safety of their caregivers (Wong et al.,2020).Toddlerhood: Ages 1-3: Autonomy versus Shame and DoubtThis stage is often known as the terrible two’s, as children begin to assert their independence. Ultimately, toddlers begin to recognize themselves as separate people from their parents and as such are learning to navigate how to become their own person (Wong et al.,2020). In this stage, the goal is to help the child develop autonomy rather than feeling doubtful or shameful for trying new things (Wong et al.,2020).Preschool: Ages 3-5: Initiative versus Guilt:In this stage, a child begins to take initiative to try and discover the World around them. However, if it is meant with disapproval, consistently, the child can begin to feel guilt (Wong et al.,2020). This can result in the child not feeling as though they have a purpose of the ability to or the ability to take charge in their environment (Wong et al.,2020). Acceptance from others can help assist them in having the ability to take charge in their life (Wong et al.,2020).School Age: Ages 6-12: Industry versus InferiorityIn this stage, the child navigates failing and succeeding in tasks as school begins to play a more apparent role in their lives (Wong et al.,2020). Successful completion of this stage looks like being able to try new tasks while tolerating inevitable failure, at times (Wong et al.,2020). Unsuccessful completion looks like a child be experiencing a debilitating fear of failing at something new, so they may not even bother trying (Wong et al.,2020).What Does This Mean for Parents?Clinton et al. (2016) stated that, “In the United States, more children are expelled from preschool than from kindergarten to grade 12 combined” (p.239). However, their mental health needs are often overlooked; adults unintentionally think that being four equates to not having a worry or problem in the world. Children who are less than six years old have a similar percentage of mental health issues than children above six years old (Clinton et al., 2016). Secure attachments entail that a caregiver is responsive to their child’s needs consistently (Clinton et al., 2016). Practically, a secure attachment looks like a parent attending to the cries of their baby, giving their child the space to fully express their emotions, and engaging in reciprocal interactions with the baby or child. Secure attachments can increase a child’s language, cognitive, and social abilities; it can help the child move through Erikson’s stages appropriately. Therapists can assist parents in forming secure attachments with their children through helping them develop a reciprocal relationship with their child, attending to their child’s needs, modeling appropriate social skills, and managing any mental health needs that can affect their abilities to form these relationships with their children.When Therapy May Be Necessary for a Child’s DevelopmentSignificant Changes in a Child’s Life or Changes in their Behaviors:

  • Divorce
  • Substance or Mental Health Issues Within Family
  • Sleep Patterns
  • Moving Back in Developmental Stages (i.e., wetting the bed again)

Emotional Regulation Difficulties:

  • Outbursts
  • Excessive Anxiety or Worry
  • Problems Concentrating

Social Difficulties:

  • Bullying
  • Communication Skills
  • Assertiveness Skills
  • Friendship skills

ReferencesClinton, J., Feller, A. F., & Williams, R. C. (2016). The importance of infant mental health. Pediatric Children’s Health , 21(5), 239-241Wong, D. W., Hall, K. R., & Hernandez, L. W. (2020). Counseling individuals through the lifespan. SAGE Publications.We offer child therapy Jupiter and child psychologist Palm Beach Gardens.