Children come to therapy for many reasons: anxiety and fear, sadness, classroom issues, divorce or death in the family, learning struggles, aggression, ADHD, and more.
If you’re a parent with a child in therapy, you know what brought you to the office. You want only the best for your child and believe that therapy is an important step in helping your son or daughter overcome struggles. But your child may not want to cooperate. This is true whether they’re a preschooler or teenager. You feel discouraged and frustrated. What can you do?
It’s important to know that there are methods and steps you can use in these situations.
Acknowledge and Affirm Their Feelings
When you respond to your child’s resistance to therapy, taking a soft approach is better than a hard one. After all, yelling at someone and demanding that they go to therapy doesn’t work. Even if your child is small enough that you can pick them up and carry them into the office, you can’t force them to engage in the process!
Rather, take the time to let your child know you’re listening. Don’t be accusatory or impatient with them. Acknowledge that they’re feeling hesitant; let them know you understand. Often, children just want to be heard and taken seriously.
This doesn’t mean that you give in and put therapy on hold. But children deserve respect as much as anyone else does, and careful listening conveys that you respect and love them.
Try to Identify the Cause
As with many situations in life, identifying the cause of your child’s resistance to therapy is an important first step. This isn’t always straightforward, but sometimes it is. And, of course, the cause can vary depending on your child’s age and personality.
It’s not uncommon for the prospect of therapy to embarrass somewhat older kids. They might think that it means something is wrong with them. They worry about other kids finding out and being made fun of. Perhaps they don’t want to be left alone in the therapist’s office, or conversely worry their parents will sit in.
Another cause of resisting therapy can include being uncomfortable at the thought of talking with a stranger about personal issues. Children may also have misinformed ideas about what therapy is. Or, they may be convinced that there is nothing wrong with them or that the way they are is who they will always be.
Sometimes children feel less intimidated by therapy when they aren’t thrown into the office all by themselves at first. Schedule a few sessions where all of you can come in and get to know the counselor, if you haven’t already.
Ask the counselor ahead of time what they recommend to help your child’s resistance. The counselor may have a perspective that you don’t, or notice something that you haven’t.
Try Someone Else
Whether your child has been seeing the therapist for a long time or only a few sessions, maybe things just aren’t a good fit. And that’s ok. All therapists have their own personalities and approaches to therapy.
While you may think a certain therapist is great, your child may find them to be out of touch or uncomfortable to be around. Ask for other recommendations and consult with your pediatrician or other medical professionals.
Stay the Course
Being a parent isn’t easy. When your child resists therapy, it can be tempting to give in and let minor inconveniences turn into excuses for no longer attending. But your child depends on you to do what’s best for them, no matter how hard it is.
Don’t give up on your efforts to help your child. If you have questions or want to learn more about our approach, please call our office today.