As a parent, you inevitably come across moments where you’re not sure what your next step is. Your preschooler’s tantrums are beginning to break the hour mark. A discussion with your middle schooler has resulted in an upheaval of yelling for the 12th time. You’re worried about the crowd your teen is hanging out with but you aren’t sure how to influence the situation.
Many people finally come to therapy when their child’s struggles or circumstances of life have gotten out of hand. In fact, most people consider therapy for months before reaching out to connect with a professional in hopes the situation will right itself. Sometimes, they have decided therapy is the next step but don’t know how to get their child on board.
This is the point where a consultation, or as I like to call them, a strategy session with a child or adolescent therapist can open up doors for you and your child.
What does a Child/Adolescent Therapist bring to the parenting table?
They Have Knowledge of Normative Development
Because they don’t come with a manual, children’s behaviors can stump even the most attentive and informed parent. The variation in normative development is grand. How you respond to normal difficult behaviors will influence how the behavior evolves. Moreover, it sets the stage for how your child perceives themself. If they think that there is something wrong with them, your child’s self esteem may suffer. Indeed, redirection of difficult behavior frequently requires parents to have an understanding yet firm response. The idea is to convey that you see your child is still developing and needing your help to manage their behavior. Furthermore, just because a behavior is normal, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need redirection, guidance and attention to not develop into a larger issue.
They Have Years of Seeing a Variety of Families and Child Behaviors
A child therapist can help you identify if there is a larger issue at play. They can give you direction regarding if you need to make changes or if your child needs to come in so you can make changes together. A good child therapist will be able to provide you with information you hadn’t considered in making tough decisions about what to do next.
They Know Every Child is Different
If you have more than one child, you are also intimately aware of this truth. Somehow that doesn’t stop occasional comparisons. A child therapist can help you see your child’s unique qualities. This is important because it usually means that each child requires distinctive parenting strategies from you. Just when you think you have parenting down with your older child, you realize the same strategies are backfiring with your other child.
They Aren’t There to Judge
Your mother and your best friend may be there in the clutch. They may have given you guidance and calmed you in times of parenting upheaval. Yet, sometimes there are struggles where you long for an impartial, objective, and knowledgeable third party. The therapist’s feelings aren’t hurt if you decide not to parent the way your parents parented you. They are there to help you be your best parent based on your values and your child’s personality.
They Can See Your Blind Spots
We all have areas of our life we aren’t aware of. Do you let your child get away with more because your parents were super strict and it caused you to rebel? Do you have a difficult relationship with your mother and become overly upset with you teen about normal adolescent independence? Are you a person who values a calm, quiet and orderly environment and now live with 2 small children creating chaos and calamity all over your home. (Or is that just me??) Sometimes the trouble happening with a child is more about parents reaction to the problem.
They Can Help You Model Your Values Better
A therapist who specializes in parenting and families can help you identify your values as a parent. They can help you clarify what you want to model for your child and how those values can show up in your relationship with your child. Perhaps you value independence, yet you tend to control many of the decisions in your child’s life. You might find yourself frustrated with their over-reliance on you to take care of age appropriate things for them. A therapist can help you identify this blind spot and take steps to let go and increase your child’s independence.
Therapists specializing in children and adolescents, aren’t just for kids. In fact, we value parents. Your job is hard. However, you have immense power and influence. Sometimes having someone to help you capitalize on that power is transformative.
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