What to do When Your Child Wants to Talk to a Therapist? Here’s 3 Important Issues To Understand.
Has your child asked to talk to a therapist? When something is troubling your child, and they want to talk – you listen. But what if they’ve asked you to see a therapist? Now what?
If your child brings up therapy to you, a few factors might impact how you respond, it’s best not to panic or become unsettled. This conversation topic can be particularly alarming for parents especially for those who have never experienced therapy or significant mental health struggles. But that doesn’t change how prevalent therapy is in the world today, and normalcy is the most important message you can convey to your child right now. Here’s 3 key issues you will want to keep in mind during this crucial conversation.
There are many reasons children ask for counseling that are actually really positive messages about how healthy they are. If they come to you about getting help, it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. And if they ultimately turn to a therapist to receive that support, again, you aren’t a bad parent. Remember not to take things personally but rather stay open and allow this to be a learning moment for everyone.
#1 Do Your Best To Put Yourself In Their Shoes When Your Child Wants To Talk To A Therapist
Put yourself in their shoes, and remember the struggles you had as a child. The normal social fears of who will wave to you in the hallway, which lunch table you’ll sit at and how your clothes look have been magnified from the people in the room with you to 100+ eyes through a screen. Just like you were, your child is trying to find the right balance of fitting in and discovering who they are as an individual. The only difference is – in your day, you didn’t post what you were doing, or wearing on a platform for people to judge your every angle.
#2 Social Media Could Be Causing Your Child To Experience Anxiety And Even Depression
The reality is – social media is part of the day-to-day experience most kids have to deal with now. And it often carries a huge significance for them. Social media has become a catalyst for depression and anxiety for many teens. Do you recall how mean certain kids could be in school when you were growing up? Sadly these same types of kids now have the same capabilities to be cruel from miles away, hidden behind a screen.
Imagine already struggling with your flaws yet putting yourself out there anyway because everyone is doing it. Each photo that your child posts represents their self-worth – maybe not to others, and certainly not to you, but it does to them. As they await a certain number of likes and comments, comparing that and the quality of their content to their peers, they are waiting to find out how much they are loved and whether they are good enough.
Even when the comments are kind, social media isn’t building your child up; it is breaking them down. While social media is not the only problem, what all teens need right now is a chance to build confidence, and therapy can give them that chance.
Regardless of how severe their need for counseling is, therapy is an invaluable tool for all youth. When your child wants to talk to a therapist, remember they can learn new coping skills and techniques to help them handle difficult thoughts or situations in a much healthier way. And this can help them throughout their entire lives.
#3 Why Kids And Teens Don’t Want To Talk To Their Parents
When your child wants to talk to a therapist, it’s okay to experience your own emotions and confusion and take a step back to process. You can step back while also accepting that they might need counseling to help them process what’s troubling them. Suppose you continue to struggle with accepting or understanding, or think that your family would benefit from working on the issues privately at home – that actually could end up being a source of suffering for your child. In this case, you can always consider family counseling as a place to start.
If your confused about what to do when your child wants to talk to a therapist, remember children are growing and that means lots of changes. Teens go through many changes and phases. The three biggies for teens to be aware of are: hormones, physical and social changes. The combination of these changes happening simultaneously can be confusing and somewhat disorienting. This often happens when they begin a new chapter in their life like starting high school or college.
Additionally when a child or teen’s sense of self changes, they don’t always know how to relate to the others, including parents. The American Psychological Association (APA) states in their article: Parenting – The Teen Years : “Teenagers, dealing with hormone changes and an ever-complex world, may feel that no one can understand their feelings, especially parents.” If something is troubling your child they may not even speak up and ask for support. When they do, it’s important to listen and understand why they might be holding their feelings inside. When your child wants to talk to a therapist, rather than a you, it could be there’s less emotional baggage, and they don’t want to add more stress to you or your relationship.
There are positive aspects to all this pulling away when your child asks to talk to a therapist. Kids and teens are learning how to be more independent.
In most cases your child likely doesn’t know what all to expect from therapy either. Ultimately asking you for help to engage in a therapy session for a healthier perspective and mindset can lead to a happier more fulfilling life. When your child is coming to you with their pain, asking for your support – make this crucial conversation into something positive and powerful for both of you.
For more on Crucial Conversations get the book Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High
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