How Do You Tell Your Child He or She Needs Therapy?
Solana Beach, CA – Divorce can be a particularly stressful time in your life, especially when children are involved. Between figuring out custody and visitation to arranging child support payments, tensions are likely to run high.
You and your spouse will naturally be under an inordinate amount of stress, but so too will your child or children. If your child seems particularly distraught during this time, perhaps counseling would be appropriate. But just how do you go about broaching this touchy topic with your child? Encinitas Family Attorney John Griffith offers some insights.
Be Honest and Explain the Process
“Honesty matters,” says Griffith. “If you’re vague about the reasons for seeking therapy, your child will probably be resistant to the idea.” Instead, he advises parents to explain specifically why seeking help is necessary.
Saying something along these lines can help: “I see that you’re frustrated when your father and I fight. Your grades are slipping in school, and I’m worried about you. Luckily, there are experts who can help us both at this time.”
When you call a therapist to schedule a session, ask about the process. How long will the session last? What should you and your child expect? Is there anything you can do to prepare beforehand? Relay this information to your child. The more information he has, the less intimidating the experience can be. As an added bonus, he will likely be more willing to attend the session if he knows what it will entail.
Make a Day of It
If possible, make the whole experience more positive by tacking on something enjoyable afterward. Perhaps a quick trip to the mall, going for a meal or seeing a movie can help your child associate the therapy session with something good. If successful, repeat the process as often as you can, so that your child can relax and de-stress in as many ways as possible.
Don’t Use Therapy as Punishment
Oftentimes in anger and frustration, a parent may exclaim, “Looks like we’d better make another appointment with your therapist!” This is counterproductive and may, in fact, detract from the progress made thus far. Try not to use counseling as a punishment or discipline technique; your child will likely resist future appointments with someone who is genuinely trying to benefit her.
Psychologists Are for Everyone
Help your child remove any stigma she may have about the terms “counseling” or “therapy.” Using the term “expert” can work, as can citing examples of when you or others have successfully partaken in therapy yourselves. Let your child know that there are many people seeking counseling on a regular basis, and the number is only increasing. Normalizing the process can calm your child and stop him from thinking he’s “crazy” or ill-adjusted.
If possible, see if your therapist offers group sessions for families in similar situations. Strength in numbers can give both you and your child a breath of fresh air at this difficult time.
Let Love Be Your Motivation
Above all and whenever possible, let your child know that you’re seeking professional help because you love him. Explain that when he’s sick, you take him to a medical doctor and now when he’s emotionally under the weather, there are other professionals who can help.
Don’t expect your child to divulge every detail from every therapy session, but be willing to listen. While this is a challenging time for you and your family, there is a plethora of help available for all of you.
During your divorce, schedule a free consultation with John Griffith and his San Diego-based family law firm today. Their skilled, experienced team can assist you in finding all the appropriate resources you need.
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