5 Tips For Talking To Your Children About Attending Counseling

Posted on: 6 August 2015

Going to therapy is difficult. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, and share your deepest thoughts with a complete stranger. For many people, counseling is frightening at the beginning. For children who don't quite understand the world, it's even harder. One in five children have a mental health disorder. Many children and teenagers can benefit from therapy. After experiencing a trauma, a change at home, or bullying at school, it's helpful to gain a new perspective on life from a professional. If you think your child or teen can benefit from therapy, here is additional info on talking about the experience beforehand.

1. Make sure they know they aren't in trouble.

Your children might think that they are going to therapy as a punishment. When a victim feels punished, it leads to feelings of betrayal. It's important to explain to your kids that they are not being punished or in any kind of trouble at all. Let them know that you're taking them to therapy because you love them, and you think it's going to help.

Using therapy as a shaming tool will also reinforce their belief that it's a punishment. For example, if your child is misbehaving, don't tell them that if they keep it up, they're going back to the therapy office.

2. Be honest about why they're attending.

You can't trick your children into participating in therapy. Tell them that they're going to therapy because of the divorce, the death, or whatever else happened. If nothing in particular happened, tell your children that they're going because you're worried about their moods, or whatever the real reason is. Understanding your concerns will help build a bridge of trust between you.

3. Tell your kids what therapy is like.

Don't leave the details open for mystery. They might think that they have to receive a physical exam like in a doctor's office. They might think that a therapist is going to yell at them, hypnotize them, or something else that seems uncomfortable. You never know what they've heard or seen on television. Explain that they will just sit in a chair and talk to a therapist. Let them know that they won't be forced to talk about anything they don't want to talk about. They're going to be nervous if they think someone is going to be grilling them for answers.

4. Make sure they know getting help is normal.

You don't want your kids to think that they crazy. It's important to let them know that their feelings are completely normal, and everyone needs help sometimes. If your kids think something is wrong with them, they'll immediately feel judged and be less likely to open up.

5. Ask your kids how they feel about it.

Don't just tell your kids they're going to therapy, ask them how they feel about going to therapy. If they feel like their feelings matter and that they have a choice, they're less likely to resist and resent the idea. They'll also be more likely to address concerns they might have about going to therapy. If you don't ask their feelings, they'll probably keep concerns to themselves, because they'll think that you don't care what they are. This will open the lines of communication, and allow you to explain what therapy is about, and ease their mind.

If your kids are still refusing therapy

It's tough to take your kids to therapy when they don't want to go. Try asking them to try three sessions and see how it goes from there. By the third session, they will know what to expect, and they might open up to the therapist more.

Therapy can be a taboo subject. Many people feel ashamed about therapy, and don't want to discuss it. Make sure your children know that there is nothing to be ashamed about. Make sure you address their concerns, explain what to expect, and most of all, make sure they don't feel like it's a punishment.