How to Talk to Your Child About Therapy
Approaching the topic of counseling can be hard. As a child therapist, I am frequently presented with the question “What should I tell my child?” by concerned parents. This is a tough question! I totally get it. Over the years, I’ve come up with three things to help parents break the ice about counseling with their children. Bringing up counseling doesn’t have to be scary! Here are some tips and tricks to help you:
1. Keep it simple.
There’s no need to explain therapy in great detail. It’s okay to let your child know they’re going to meet a new friend who will play with them and help them with their feelings. Depending on the age of your child and the specific circumstances surrounding their need for counseling, you can share more details. Don’t feel pressured to provide too much information. Follow their lead and answer questions as appropriate.
2. Be honest.
It’s okay to tell your child they are going to spend time with a therapist or a special friend to help them with their feelings. Don’t tell them they are going to see a teacher, a tutor, or something unrelated to counseling. This can complicate the beginning of a really beautiful therapeutic relationship. Children need to know from the beginning that their relationship with their therapist is unique and can be trusted.
3. Stay positive.
While it’s important for your child to know what a therapist is and why they’re visiting one, it’s important to talk about the experience in an uplifting way. Therapy shouldn’t be presented as a punishment for the child or as a consequence to some challenging behaviors. Say something like, “This person is going to help us as a family” rather than “This person is going to help you be a better listener for mommy.” By approaching it in a positive way, your child will be more receptive to their therapist and counseling, in general. This will set a good foundation for trust and rapport.
While these tips may be helpful, you know your child best! Tailor these tips to fit your own child’s unique needs. At the end of the day, you are making a great first step for your family by seeking the additional support of a therapist. If you have any questions, please reach out to me! I am more than happy to help you set your child up for a successful therapy process.