Having your child begin therapy can be daunting. Many parents are unsure of how best to help them or struggle when the process takes longer than they hope. Here at Sunshine Child Counseling we want to support you in supporting your child – we know that when parents and therapists work together, the outcomes are best for the child.
As a concerned and understandably frustrated parent you may find yourself falling into one or more of the negative patterns below:
- The ‘fix my child’ approach. As a busy and worried parent, it can be easy to hope that once your child is seeing a therapist their problems will soon be ‘fixed’. However, children spend far more time with their parents than their therapist and therefore, as a parent, you are in a powerful position to support your child with their difficulties. The therapist will want to work with you, to help you continue the work done in the therapy room and apply it to the outside world.
- The ‘directive’ approach. You know your child best and it can therefore be tempting to try to direct your child into talking about the topics you are concerned about. However, therapy works best when children are free to discuss whatever comes to mind. This approach means that your child is less likely to feel resentment, shame or the pressure to fix the problem. Your child will also understandably need to build a relationship with the therapist before feeling comfortable enough to share their difficulties.
- The ‘co-parenting’ idea. At Sunshine Child Counseling we do not attempt to parent your child, this includes never giving out consequences. Doing so would put a strain on the therapeutic relationship between therapist and child and undermines your power as parent. We are more than happy to give you ideas and tools for your own parenting tool box.
- The ‘therapy as punishment’ idea. Therapy should never be used as a punishment for your child’s behavior. This is likely to cause your child to believe that they are ‘bad’ and need to be ‘fixed’ and impact negatively on their relationship with the therapist. The child is unlikely to want to attend therapy and therefore change is unlikely.
- The ‘therapist as caregiver’ fear. The therapeutic relationship between child and therapist is a unique one and this can cause some parents to fear that they are being replaced as primary caregiver. This is never the aim of therapy. In fact, the opposite is often the aim: to strengthen the bond between you, the parent, and your child.
Noticing that you may be experiencing one of the negative patterns above is the first step to avoiding them. If you feel that one or more of them may be relevant to you then please speak to your child’s therapist. They can support you in thinking through where these ideas may come from and how to avoid them in the future.
In addition, the strategies below are ways in which parents can be of great support and assistance to their children as they engage in therapy:
- Help your child to understand what therapy is before the first appointment. Explain to them, in an age-appropriate way, that therapy is about supporting them with the difficulties they are experiencing, for example: “I’ve noticed that sometimes you get really nervous when we have bad storms, so I have found a child counselor for us to work with to help you. Her name is … and she seems really nice! I have already spent some time talking to her/him and I think it is going to be a good fit. Would you like to see a picture of her on the website? Do you have any questions?”
- When you speak to us try to be honest about your child’s difficulties and progress. That way we can all ensure that the therapy is the right fit and that we are helping your family in the best way we can.
- Attend any appointments we invite you to, including our parent consultation sessions. These are a great opportunity to review progress and review goals. This leaves the child’s therapy sessions for them. If you feel that more frequent parent consultation sessions would be helpful, then please send us an email or call us.
- As part of the therapy process, we may offer suggestions or strategy ideas for home. These are an opportunity for your child to put into practice the skills they are developing in therapy. Please support and encourage your child to use these. Such strategies may not feel natural or easy at first, however, with your support your child will master them and you will begin to see progress. If you need support in implementing the strategies at home, then please speak to us during a parent consultation.
- Try to support your child into being ready for the therapy sessions by ensuring they visit the bathroom beforehand and have had a snack or drink. Having basic needs met beforehand is always helpful!
- Keep to your appointments. This will help your child to understand that the appointments are important and also understand that you are prioritizing them and their mental health. We understand that life sometimes gets in the way and appointments need to be rearranged, however, sticking to the agreed plan as much as possible will ensure your child attains their therapy goals as quickly as possible.
We look forward to working with you and your child. If you have any questions about the process of starting therapy and how you can best support your child, then please speak to us.