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Child issues

What is childhood?

Childhood is a time of phenomenal transformations and learning. This transitional phase serves to prepare the individual for evolution from total dependence to the understanding and accomplishment of adulthood.

Childhood is a fundamental time in our lives to the extent that it provides the foundations of our personality. It is the primordial stage in the structuring of our existence as an independent being: during this stage we learn to communicate, we gather knowledge, we develop our way of thinking, we construct our relationship with ourselves and others and we develop intelligence.

Troubled childhood

In order for these elements to develop harmoniously, the child must be mentally and emotionally available, however childhood is a great time of upheaval.

As the child’s personality and identity structure themselves, we may note painful, difficult and surprising moments for the child and their close ones.

When these symptoms fluctuate and change, they may be the sign of passing psychological suffering in the context of normal physiological development (for example, fear of the dark).

When they are persistent or more intense, they may also indicate a problematic development of the personality.

Childhood issues may appear in many various ways in any aspect of life: physiological, emotional, social, school and learning.

Children and learning

Learning difficulties

The child may be having problems learning due to learning difficulties, which may be symptoms of learning disorders and potentially debilitating to the child’s education. For example, the child may be unable to concentrate, to read or write, to understand their exercises or remember what they have studied…When the time comes to sit down to do homework with the parents, the moment may be very difficult and a source of tension for everyone.

An initial appointment therefore enables the psychologist to determine whether a psychological and neuropsychological assessment is necessary in order to diagnose a disorder and determine its nature, intensity and origin.


Some children have great ease learning and signs of giftedness. These children learn concepts quickly and easily, they take an interest in subjects beyond their years.

An initial appointment enables the psychologist to determine if an assessment is necessary to diagnose giftedness.

Schools admissions

The school admission procedure sometimes requires providing a WISC or WPPSI assessment that demonstrates the child or adolescents’ cognitive functioning.

Signs and symptoms of childhood unhappiness and anxiety

The signs and symptoms of childhood unhappiness and anxiety are many and varied. They can have an important chronic impact on the child’s development and they can present themselves in any aspect of life.
An initial appointment enables the psychologist to determine if psychotherapy is necessary.

Physiological impact

Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit are the main symptoms of childhood anxiety: the child moves all the time, they cannot keep still. A restless child is often an anxious child.

An anxious child may present eating disorders:

  • The child eats very little or refuses to eat altogether (anorexic behaviour)
  • The child overeats (bulimic behaviour)
  • The child drinks excessively (polydipsia)

These children may also suffer from sleep disorders: sleep avoidance, regular nightmares, sleeping only with parents.

Bladder and bowel dysfunction is also common: regular constipation, bed-wetting or the soiling of underwear at an inappropriate age.

Reoccurring illnesses may present or complaining about various physical ailments: the child is often ill, often in the infirmary, often with headache or stomach ache.

Emotional Impact

The child may suffer from moments of excessive anger and be regularly in a bad mood.
They may also seem sad or worried over periods of time. Sometimes they cry excessively.
They may show feelings of helplessness: saying they are worthless, that they will never succeed.

Social and relationship impact

If social relations are being affected, the child may disengage and will often be found alone at play times.
If social relations are overly invested in, the child may seem to be inseparable from others, to the point of being intrusive and forcing friendships.

Educational impact

Experts in neuroscience agree that stress affects learning. An anxious child may experience difficulties learning due to problems concentrating, understanding and carry out exercises.

An anxious child may over-invest their education, either to avoid thinking about their anxiety, or to project a positive image of academic achievement motivated by a fear of failure.

The child may also withdraw, become demotivated and no longer make an effort to learn, either because energy levels are depleted through low mood, or through lack of self belief.

Childhood and mental illness

Certain symptoms may be indicative of a psychological or psychiatric disorder such as child psychosis. The child may hear voices or see things that do not exist or hold strange beliefs and delusions. They may seem disconnected or extremely anxious.

Other symptoms could be related to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism: difficulties with sociability and communication or signs of inflexibility.

An initial consultation enables the psychologist to determine if a psychological and neuropsychological assessment is necessary to make diagnostic hypotheses. An early diagnosis is essential for determining an adapted therapeutic care plan including psychotherapy and/or neuropsychological rehabilitation, and for swiftly providing the child and parents with the support they need.

Does my child need to see a psychologist?

There are no age limits on getting help from a therapist

As soon as unhappiness, difficulty or struggling with emotions are identified by the child and/or their parents, a consultation can be considered. It is never too soon to seek help: the sooner we act, the better chance there is of preventing symptoms from developing and worsening.

However, beyond relieving symptoms, psychological consultations aim to act on the long term by preventing the evolution of difficulties and issues, through accompanying the child during this very vulnerable stage in life that is so important to the forming of personality.

As Dolto said, child psychotherapy should be first and foremost preventative and not curative. The objective of psychotherapy is to provide the child with a space in which to freely think and express his or herself before moving on to a fulfilled adulthood. It also involves accompanying parents in their relationship with their child - even the parents of infants may seek support through interactive parental guidance. However, only too often parents wait until the symptoms have advanced and are engrained and debilitating before seeking help. In this context, psychotherapy is no longer preventative: it becomes curative.

Warning signs

A symptom that continues past the appropriate age for it to present itself should alert parents. For example, a child who still wets the bed at 3 and a half years old.

However, as the child’s nervous system is still developing, certain symptoms are normal if the child has not yet reached the age corresponding to the specific level of physiological maturity. We can therefore not expect a 3 year old to be able to control their impulsivity and "symptoms" of physical and psychological agitation.

Certain signs could alert the parents that a psychological consultation is needed. The summary table here below indicates the ages at which certain symptoms are no longer appropriate and should be noted as potentially indicative of developmental issues.