Being a parent is a hard job, even at the best of times. But when your family or your child is struggling with emotional or behavioral issues, it can be even harder.
Like most parents, you only want the best for your kids. You’re concerned about what is happening in their lives and have been able to find a counselor to help them. Your heart aches to see what your child is dealing with, and one of your greatest hopes is that therapy will help them.
You want to see them laugh again, succeed in school, or have friends. But despite good intentions, even the most patient and wise of parents can lose their cool. Or your concern for your child is so great that you can’t contain your advice or questions regarding therapy.
With this, you may end up sabotaging your child’s therapy, even if you don’t know it. These are common ways it happens.
1. Telling Them What to Say or Focus on in Sessions
You have spent their entire lives taking care of your kids. Their personalities and struggles and likes and dislikes are hopefully well-known to you. As you observe their lives, you may notice tendencies or personality traits you think are hindering them.
Because of this and similar factors, you may conclude that their sessions will be more productive if you help guide what’s discussed. But the therapy sessions aren’t about you. They’re about your child, and it’s best to leave the conversation to the direction of the therapist and your child. If you want your child’s therapist to know something important, send them an email or just schedule time to talk to them.
2. Pestering Them with Questions After Sessions
As a parent, you’re often dying to know what’s going on in your child’s life. You’re desperate for them to make progress in therapy. Details and progress are important to you. But peppering them with questions after their sessions isn’t helpful.
As eager as you are, some things are best left expressed in their own time, or not at all. An endless stream of questions often has the opposite effect of its intentions. It can also cause your kids to clam up during sessions or resist going.
3. Using the Therapist as a Consequence
When a child skips class again or is overly aggressive with a sibling, your temper may get the best of you. After all, you try and try to get them help. You just want to see progress. But when you don’t, or when they “act up,” you may try to use therapy as a consequence for their behavior.
Unfortunately, doing this will probably make your child resistant to therapy, if they weren’t already. They may form a stigma about themselves and their need for therapy sessions if you make these threats.
After all, consequences for bad behavior aren’t intended to make kids feel better. They’re intended to make kids feel regretful for their behavior.
4. Tattling to the Therapist About Their Behavior
Just as with using therapy as a consequence, tattling to the therapist about your child’s behavior is another surefire way to undermine their sessions.
When you “tattle,” you’re communicating to your child that the therapist isn’t there to help them, but to dole out a consequence. This isn’t true, and you don’t want your child to feel this way, or therapy will be sabotaged. We always want to know what is happening at home with your child but let’s do it in a way where the child doesn’t feel like they are “in trouble.” That could look like a private email sent to the therapist or a private parent consultation session.
5. Implying that There is No Confidentiality
When you’re frustrated with your child’s behavior, you might imply that there is no confidentiality in their therapy sessions because you can view their records at any time. Just as with tattling, you’ll undermine their willingness to talk openly with their therapist if you do this.
It’s hard as a parent to let go of your need to feel involved and know what’s going on. But implying that you’re keeping tabs on what’s discussed will only shut them down.
If you recognize yourself in any of these behaviors, consider scheduling a private appointment with your child’s counselor. You can ask for their guidance as you navigate your child’s need for privacy and healing. Bottom line is we are always here for your child and you! If you feel a little lost in the process and are needing more support just let us know!