The decision to take your child to therapy can be a difficult and emotional process, and one of the hardest things to determine is at what point professional help is appropriate. When my son's anxiety became too big for me and my husband to manage, we knew it was clearly time to seek the skills and knowledge of a professional. But the signs your toddler should see a therapist are not always cut and dry. Due to the nature and young age of toddlers, it can be hard to know what is regular developmental behavior and what is a red flag that help is needed.
Working with a professional — especially a therapist that exclusively works with young children — not only gives your child the skills and tools he needs to be successful, but helps you to better parent him as well. Due to their age, toddlers lack the communication and emotional vocabulary to fully express how they are feeling, which means it's your job to be on the look out for the non-verbal clues your child is sending you. Being aware of these six behavioral and emotional changes in your toddler will alert you to the fact that they would benefit from therapy.
1. They Show Lots Of Physical Aggression
Since toddlers are impulsive and haven't quite got the knack of the whole "self control" thing just yet, they're known to make some snap decisions that aren't so great. However, if your child is consistently showing overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting) they could benefit from seeing a therapist, according to Kids Health, a website from Nemours.
2. Their Daily Life Is Disrupted
One clear sign that it's time for anyone to seek out therapy is when a certain behavior starts to interfere with daily life — and the same is true for toddlers, as Motherlode, a blog for The New York Times explained. When a child's behavior affects the way the family functions or dictates how the day will go, it means there is likely a larger issue, such as anxiety or depression, looming.
3. You & Your Partner Have Relationship Problems
A child's behavior problems can ripple out to affect the whole family, you and your partner included. According to the website for the Child Mind Institute, conflict over managing your child's behavior can cause relationship strains for parents. You may not think that extra tiffs with your SO would mean your little one needs to go to therapy, but is in an indicator that the behavior is seeping into other areas of family life.
4. They Have Regular Nightmares
It's not uncommon for kids to have a bad dream from time to time, but when these become the norm it's a good idea to talk to a therapist. As Everyday Health pointed out, experiencing regular nightmares is a cue to parents that there is an underlying issue the child needs help working through.
5. They Experience Certain Developmental Delays
Although toddlers reach milestones at different ages and paces, if your child is significantly behind you're going to want to dig deeper. Developmental delays in speech, language, or toilet training will tip you off that therapy is needed, as Kids Health explained. Talk to your pediatrician get a better understanding of what constitutes a delay in these areas in order to properly assess where your child is at.
6. They Go Through Drastic Emotional Changes
As a parent, you know your toddler's personality, habits, and demeanor pretty well. So noticing a significant change in your child's emotional state means you've spotted a red flag for therapy, according to the website for Psych Central. This can look different for every child, but if you have a hunch something is off with your little one, follow that niggling and delve deeper with the help of a professional.