This is a very common and appropriate question that parents ask me when scheduling the first session for their child. They might state concerns such as “I don’t want him/her to feel like something is wrong with him/her.” While this is understandable, therapy is usually a lot more anxiety-producing for parents than it is for their child. In fact, most children who come to see me appear relieved to be in my office, and quickly understand my role in helping him/her/their family feel better about whatever it is they are struggling with. Nonetheless, at times children and teens may resist therapy, and these suggestions for how to talk to children about starting therapy can be helpful:
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This blog is written by the clinicians at Jonah Green and Associates, a mental health practice based in Kensington, MD that provides quality services for children, teens, families, and adults. It is intended as a resource for families who are seeking to expand their knowledge about mental health and mental health services, and also as a resource for families who are seeking quality mental health services, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Please feel free to post questions and comments on any of the entries as well as on any topics or articles from our companion web site www.childandfamilymentalhealth.com.
As a family therapist, I often hear from parents, “I’ve tried everything and my kids still won’t listen to me!” Of all the tasks of parenting, one of the most difficult is that of giving directions. Being a parent can involve not only responding to kids’ schedules and various needs, but also attending to work demands, partner and friend relationships, as well as personal and household tasks. Amidst multiple responsibilities and high levels of stress, giving directions to kids can be very challenging, especially when they ignore or resist. Here are some strategies that many parents have used so that their directions are better heard, and ultimately followed:
Couples and family members who enter therapy to improve their relationships have usually endured long periods of harsh conflict. Couples might be caught in repetitive cycles of criticism and defensiveness; parents and teens might be trapped in power struggles; siblings may find themselves in escalating rivalries. Anguished to stop destructive arguments, people usually begin therapy focused on containing their conflicts. Therapists can help clients to manage their conflicts by helping them engage in respectful communication focused on thoughts and feelings, and avoiding excessive blame, criticism, and stonewalling. With improved communication, power struggles can become more manageable, and conflicts can more easily resolve.
Every parent’s number one responsibility is to keep their child safe. Since pictures of missing children began to first appear on milk containers in the 1980’s, parents .have responded by teaching their children about “stranger danger.” Many children are instructed from a very early age not to talk to strangers. Yet the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), whose photos of lost children appear on milk containers, believes that this message is both insufficient and counterproductive in keeping children safe. NCMEC and other child safety professionals do not support the message of “stranger danger” for the following reasons: [Read more…]
The loss and pain of divorce can be extraordinarily challenging. When children are involved, parents’ hurt feelings are often re-activated as they find themselves needing to communicate extensively with the very person who has caused them such hurt and pain. While most parents know that their children will be better off if they communicate amicably and cooperatively with their child’s other parent, confusion and hurt feelings can lead parents into a “conflict dance” that can generate further pain for the whole family. [Read more…]