As a parent, it’s perfectly natural for you to worry about your children’s mental health, especially if they’re going through a particularly challenging or difficult time in their lives. As much as you want to help them get through it to the best of your ability, you might not always have the right words or resources to do so on your own. Child or adolescent therapy can be an effective solution to help get your child talking about whatever emotions or challenges they’re facing in a safe and open environment. Unfortunately, many young children and teens might be resistant to the notion of attending counselling sessions because they fear judgment or feel as if they’re being unjustly punished. If you think your child could greatly benefit from speaking to a counsellor, but they refuse to attend therapy sessions, there are a few things to keep in mind and that you could do to help your child or teen feel more comfortable with the idea of counselling.
Reasons Your Child Might Refuse Therapy
First and foremost, you need to take the time to completely listen to and comprehend the reasons why your child is refusing to go to therapy. The most obvious solution to this is to simply have an earnest discussion with your child and ask them what their thoughts or opinions are about therapy.
Validating these opinions is important so that your child can become more open to the idea of sharing their most personal fears reservations, and experiences. At the end of the day, parents need to empathize with the potential reality that your child may be worried about being judged by someone else and the accompanying shame, guilt, and a variety of other emotions that are associated with the experience of counselling.
What Can You Do to Help Your Child or Teen?
Helping your child learn to identify, accept, and express their emotions in a healthy way is important. Pairing them up with a therapist who understands what they’re going through and can provide them with the appropriate resources to channel their emotions can help alleviate a great deal of the stress or pressures they’re feeling. School stress, growing pains, bullying, problems at home, and the mounting pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives are all factors that can contribute to internal turmoil for your child. Thankfully, these are all issues that are thoroughly addressed in child and teen counselling services.
In order to help your child understand that therapy could be beneficial for them, try to implement the following strategies into your interactions with your child.
Eliminate the Stigma Surrounding Therapy and Normalize It
One of the main deterrents that prevents many children from engaging in therapy sessions is the social stigma that’s often associated with it. Most children fear being ridiculed by their peers or classmates and the last thing they want is to stand out from their peers. It’s important to eliminate the stigma associated with therapy and explain to your child that it’s perfectly acceptable and even normal for them to seek out help whenever they need it.
Find Them a Compatible Counsellor
Not every counsellor is compatible with every client and there’s nothing wrong with that. In order for the therapy sessions to be effective, your child needs to be able to establish a therapeutic relationship and a sense of trust with their counsellor. The counsellor needs to establish a safe and comfortable environment in order to make your child feel comfortable enough to openly discuss their emotions and experiences. As a parent, the best thing you can do is speak to your child, ask for their opinions, and then meet with the counsellor yourself in order to ensure that he/she will be a good fit for your child or teen.
Share How You Think Your Child Can Benefit from Therapy
Whether you’re speaking from personal experience or not, helping your child understand the reasons why you think they can benefit from counselling may be the push they need to make the decision on their own. Please keep in mind that when all is said and done, the decision to go to counselling should always be voluntary. Give your opinion and adult perspective from your child’s developmental stage, however, do so in a gentle and compassionate manner.
Explain That Therapy Isn’t a Form of Punishment
Some children who are resistant to therapy might view it as a form of unfair punishment. You need to make it clear that this is not the case and that they’ve done nothing wrong. Your child needs to understand that you’re just trying to help them in the best way you possibly can. Don’t mince words; just tell them that you have their absolute best interest at heart and you truly believe therapy can help them deal with whatever they’re going through. Additionally, remind them that you will also be able to learn from the experience, therefore, reducing the emphasis on them and their potential belief that they are, or have a “problem”.
Negotiate and Make Your Child Part of the Decision-Making Process
Keep in mind that the decision to go to counselling is a two-way street, which means the decision should be mutual. Depression, stress, and anxiety are all emotions that profoundly affect the entire family and your child needs to feel as if they’re still in control over what happens to them in order for counselling to be beneficial and effective.
What You Should Avoid Doing
Here’s a list of things you should try to avoid:
Don’t try to force your child to go to therapy.
Don’t refer to therapy as a means for “fixing” your child; they’re not broken, they just need a little guidance.
Don’t patronize them or lie about where you’re taking them.
At Growth Counselling Services, my goal is to help children and teenagers come to terms with the emotions and experiences they endure on a daily basis. Whether they’re feeling the pressure of trying to perform well in school, are anxious about meeting other people’s expectations, or have endured a traumatic experience, I am confident that I can give them the tools to better manage their presenting difficulties. To schedule an appointment for your child, please contact me, Rick Defoe.