The role you play as a parent is important, it can help your child feel safe and loved while they work through their emotions with a therapist.
Help your child find the right therapist.
When looking for a therapist with your child, learn about different modalities, read therapist bios, ask about the therapist’s credentials and approach to therapy, as well as their availability.
Make sure that your child feels comfortable working with the chosen therapist and feels like they have a safe space to discuss their feelings. If your child doesn’t feel like the therapist is a match, even if it’s after they’ve begun working with the therapist, encourage them to speak with their therapist about this. If they still feel like it isn’t a match, help them find a new therapist they may be a better match.
Learn about what you can do as a parent to support your child.
- Be a good listener. Let your child know that you’re there to listen and understand their feelings if they want to talk.
- Encourage your child to talk about their feelings with their therapist.
- Be supportive, let your child know how proud you are of them for seeking help and prioritizing their mental health.
- Help your child stay focused on their goals by being positive about the therapy process and reinforcing its importance of therapy in helping them prioritize their mental health. Don’t let yourself get frustrated by setbacks or obstacles along the way; instead focus on celebrating successes when they happen.
- Understand the therapeutic process. Therapy takes time, and progress can be slow. Therapy looks different for people of different ages, for young children, therapy can often look like play or games. If you have questions about the therapeutic process or the modalities being used, ask your child’s therapist.
- Ask your child if they would like to discuss what they are learning or doing in therapy, and respect if they don’t want to share this with you.
- If your child is doing teletherapy, ensure they have a private, quiet space to do their sessions.
Encourage your child to develop emotional awareness
When your child first starts therapy, it can be hard to know how to help them. It’s important to remember that they are in therapy because they need support and guidance as they navigate their emotions. The best thing you can do is keep communication open with your child throughout their time in therapy, and don’t pressure them into talking about their feelings if they aren’t ready.
To start off the conversation about therapy, you may want to use the following phrases: “I noticed that you has been having some trouble lately.” You may want to ask if there’s anything specific going on in their life that could be causing difficult feelings, such as “How’s school going?” or “How are things going with your friends?”. You can also try asking open-ended questions that encourage reflection rather than just facts, such as “What do you think might be causing these feelings?”.
You can be an important part of the treatment process
The therapist will likely talk with you about how to best support your child. However, there are some general guidelines that can help.
- You can help your child by learning effective ways to help your child manage their emotions.
- Talk to your child’s therapist about what you can do to help your child.
- Help your child feel safe and comfortable in therapy. The first step towards feeling better is making sure that they feel safe enough to open up about their feelings or experiences without fear of judgment or criticism from others around them, including parents.
- Help to encourage your child to use the skills used in session in their day to day lives.
- Do your own emotional reflection to understand how you may be contributing to dynamics happening in your home. Find ways to respond appropriately to your child’s emotions and needs.
Take the first steps to finding a therapist.
In the end, it’s important to remember that your child’s therapist is there to help them process their emotions. You can be an important part of that process by learning effective ways to help your child and keeping communication open throughout therapy.