Feb 21, 2014

Does My Child Need Counselling?

Category: Childhood Disorders
Posted By: Jessie
Question: I have a 7 year old son who lives with his grandparents from a young age (fathers side).  He has emotional problems directed at me for not being with me, he misses me and looks for me out the window, (I'm In the process of getting him in my care).  His teacher has suggested counselling because of this and his grandparents refuse.

They want him with them always, they won't let him sleep over with me and he's very distressed that he doesn’t get more time with me.

He has mentioned a few words that worried me he said he wants to die once and now he has hundreds of drawings of murder, he draws people decapitating sharks and sharks decapitating people, or people stabbing each other.  He is very good at drawing and puts detail into everything, he draws a certain man and quotes in every drawing "Jeff the killer...go to sleep" he draws pictures of Jeff by himself or with a dead person he killed, all his drawings have the same theme. He says Jeff is his imaginary friend, he claims he's friendly but he is horrific!

He has no violence at home and is very well looked after, I worry that a child his age should not be spending so much time creating these images in his head, he says they all come from his imagination. His grandparents and father see no problem with this, but I do.  Where are these drawings coming from? All his problems are my fault I know and it's my fault I'm not there, is this his reaction to that along with everything else? I know he needs counselling and are these drawings another symptom that he needs this? Or are they just a phase?

Answer: Dear Jessie, Thank you for your question.  I am so sorry that you are distressed about your son.  It sounds like a very difficult situation and you clearly miss him.

With regard to the drawings, I certainly think that your son is acting out some conflict which is preoccupying him.  Without a full assessment I can’t tell you what that conflict might be.  It could be the conflict between yourself and his grandparents, it could be his own conflict between wanting you and feeling like that would damage his grandparents, or wanting his grandparents and feeling that this would hurt you and probably feeling very torn between you all.

I do think that it would be helpful for him to have therapy at some point but I don’t think that it would help him for this to become the point of more arguments.  If his grandparents are worried about him going to therapy himself, perhaps they would consent to go to family therapy with you.  You could all discuss how to arrange a situation in which your son felt less torn and all the adults came together to care for him and think about what would be in his best interests.  Perhaps in the course of this the therapist could see your son and try to understand what is troubling him.

Given that there is so much going on in his life, I don’t think it is a terrible sign that he is using his creative abilities to have some release from the things that are disturbing him.  Perhaps you could talk to him about the pictures and ask him about the violence, and the feelings that he has about them.  You could let him know that it is okay to tell you all his feelings, that you will understand that he loves his grandparents who have looked after him and love him.  You can tell him that you understand that children and adults sometimes have strong ambivalent feelings of both loving and hating people, being angry and caring, etc.

I wish you all the best of luck with your son and hope that you can find some resolution that helps you all feel less distressed.

Best wishes,




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