By Edward Callaghan, Ph.D.
Early childhood is a time of newness and change when the child is expected to adapt to an array of different physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive, and social changes all at the same time. This period (roughly from ages two to six) is very challenging. The child is still extremely dependent on parents, teachers, and other caregivers, but must also learn about the world and about herself/himself, develop new skills for managing moods and frustrations, and understand and adapt to rules---all while trying to fit in socially.
This stage of a child’s development is marked by very rapid physical, cognitive, and emotional growth. Between ages two and six the child undergoes a remarkable transformation from having just acquired the skills for talking, walking, and controlling bodily functions to being able to function in a school setting for up to six hours a day, use a computer, work out mathematical problems, read books, write stories, and participate in a variety of other endeavors. Because the demands for adaptation are so rapid and so numerous it is easy for the child to become stressed and overloaded. This is especially true when the child is forced to adapt to outside stresses and strains in addition to the typical ones. It is common, for example, for young children to become emotionally overwhelmed when confronting parental conflict, a loved one’s death, or bullying.
In order to manage these challenges it is important for the child to have the requisite coping skills, social skills, and problem-solving skills for addressing them. A child with social skills deficits, anxiety or mood problems, learning disabilities, or attention deficits will meet with added stress and challenge when facing problems at home, in school, or with peers. When problems in these areas are not adequately addressed early on, they tend to worsen and lead to additional problems with self-esteem and poor socialization as well as the possibility for more serious difficulties later on (e.g., poorly controlled anger, major depression, generalized anxiety, etc.)
In providing treatment to young children we start by
scheduling a meeting with the parents and the child
together. During this meeting the therapist interviews the parents and either talks to, or plays with the child to try to develop a better understanding of the problem(s) confronting the child, the challenges the parents are facing in assisting the child, and the various stresses and obstacles that are impacting the situation. By meeting jointly with the child and the parents the therapist is able to observe the child “in action” and get a sense of the child’s personality, social relatedness, patterns of emotional expression, and patterns of relating with the parents. The parents, in turn, are able to provide an in-depth description of the child’s strengths and challenges, temperament and developmental history, social functioning and progress in school, and information regarding the child’s difficulties. After meeting with the child and parents for a couple of sessions the therapist will recommend a course of treatment to address the difficulties. Depending on the specifics of the problems the therapist could recommend play therapy (e.g., for a young child who is coping with stresses outside of her/his control), behavior modification and social skills enhancement (e.g., for a child with ADHD or Asperger’s Disorder), parent education and support (e.g., for a young child with behavioral issues in the home) or any combination of these (e.g., play therapy, behavior modification, and parenting support for a child with severe ADHD-related difficulties in the home and at school). The therapist also provides guidance and support to parents in collaborating with the child’s school (if there is one) to address problems in the school setting and to make sure that the child’s academic, emotional, and social needs are being attended to appropriately.
The Integrative Therapy Institute of New Jersey has two offices, one in Metuchen in Middlesex County, and the other in Montclair in Essex County for parents seeking counseling or therapy for their preschool aged children. Our Metuchen office is convenient to the Middlesex County towns of Edison, Woodbridge, South Plainfield, Piscataway, Highland Park, New Brunswick, East Brunswick, Sayreville, Dunellen, and Middlesex. For residents of Union County, the Metuchen office is near to the towns of Scotch Plains, Clark, Westfield, Plainfield, Garwood, and Fanwood. For residents of Somerset County we are near to the towns of North Plainfield, Green Brook, Bound Brook, South Bound Brook, Bridgewater, and Franklin, New Jersey.
Our Montclair office is convenient to the Essex County towns of Glen Ridge, Cedar Grove, Verona, Essex Fells, Bloomfield, Nutley, Caldwell, North Caldwell, and West Caldwell. Slightly farther away are Fairfield, Roseland, Livingston, Milburn, Orange, East Orange, and South Orange. For residents of Passaic County, we are near to the towns of Clifton, Little Falls, Woodland Park, and Totowa, New Jersey.
Integrative Therapy Institute of New Jersey, LLC • Copyright © 2013-2018 • Administrative Office in Metuchen, New Jersey