As with adults, therapy can be tremendously beneficial and healing for children, whose paths to identity formation often come with challenges in the form of behavioral issues, socialization difficulties, and emotional or communication barriers.
Still, having a child in therapy can be stressful or anxiety-inducing for many parents. Knowing they need help, that they don’t have all the answers, can be hard enough. But what to do once therapy begins? What role should a parent take in his or her child’s therapy? What role shouldn’t a parent take? How can a parent recognize that therapy is working?
Some guidelines to help parents effectively and productively navigate their way through a child’s therapy:
- Share important information with the therapist after your child’s session. Share information with the therapist before the session only if it will directly affect your child’s therapy for that day. Also, telling your child to “be sure to tell your therapist” about an issue puts pressure on the child and may seem like punishment.
- Children are allowed more freedom in therapy than they are at home. This is OK. There is no such thing as “bad” behavior in therapy. Children quickly learn that there are different rules in different places.
- Remember: Sometimes the child’s behavior gets worse before it gets better. This is normal in therapy and is a sign of progress.
- Therapy is successful mainly because the child learns to trust the therapist never to reveal what is said and done in therapy. However, the child knows that the therapist will meet with the caregiver to discuss progress and general issues. Confidence is necessary to give the child freedom of self-expression, which is essential for therapy to be effective.
- A therapist’s goal is not to find out what happened to your child. It is to facilitate the child’s healing, resolution of trauma, and help the child learn to express his or her feelings.
- Children work very hard in therapy. Please try to avoid asking your child questions about the session unless he or she volunteers information. Things NOT to say: “Did you have fun?” “Did you like it?” Things you CAN say: “I bet you are tired. You have been working hard for an hour.”
© Copyright 2007 by Sally James. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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