You’ve identified your child is struggling emotionally and in need of help that you aren’t able to provide. You’ve done your research and found a therapist that you hope can help. The therapeutic process is about to begin, so you may be wondering what your role is now.
Your role at this point is to reinforce to your child that getting this type of help and support doesn’t mean they are broken. Explain to them in age-appropriate language that just as medical professionals help us keep our bodies healthy, these professionals help us to keep our minds healthy and strong. After reinforcing this message, you should do more listening to what your child has to say than talking.
As the parent, you should attend the first session with your child and reinforce their courage for going and their willingness to be so open. You should also further evaluate how your child and therapist interact with each other to help determine if this is going to be a good fit. Having a good rapport with their therapist is crucial for a successful outcome. If their personalities don’t mesh well it would be best to move on to the next candidate on your list.
This is also a good time to ask questions of the therapist about their therapeutic process to make sure you have a thorough understanding of what will be happening and your expectations. They should be more than willing to have this conversation with you. If not, go back to your list.
The key role for you at this stage is to support the process. Allowing them to address their challenges and feelings in a safe place is a game changer for most children. A healthy therapeutic relationship can help children deal with anxieties as they arise rather than let them build and come out in ways that are undesirable.
Support them by listening, but don’t expect them to explain what is happening during the sessions. Don't ask a lot of questions. They need to believe that they can tell the therapist anything and they are not going to “tell on them” to their parents. This can be a difficult role for many parents to understand.
It is not effective for the parents to have too much dialogue with the therapist outside of general scheduling-type questions. If there is a concern for the child or they do not seem to be getting much out of the sessions, first, discuss it with your child and then talk with the therapist about overall progress. If it doesn’t seem to be a good fit, move on.
The ultimate goal of the therapeutic process is to help your child learn the skills necessary to effectively address challenges as they arise. This helps them to be more resilient and confident. Your role as a parent is to provide them with the opportunity to learn those skills one way or another.
Thanks for reading!
Jeff Miner, CEO/Founder and "Head" Coach
Join our mailing list and you will receive access to our Mental Toughness Assessment.