If you’re a parent considering bringing your child to counseling, you might be wondering how a counselor can possibly help your child. You might be wondering what to tell your child or what you should expect. You also might be wondering what your role will be—or if you will have a role at all! If you’re considering counseling for your child, I want to commend you because it is never easy to ask for help, and beginning this process can be confusing.
Because I work with kiddos of all ages, I’d like to answer some common questions and hopefully put you a little more at ease—even though being a parent means you’re never truly at ease, right?
“How many sessions will you need with my child?”
When working with kids, this one is a tough one to answer because every child is so different. The first session is always used to build rapport and create a safe space and relationship with a child. But for some kids, this might take 2-3 sessions if they are shy, have experienced trauma, have a speech/language delay, etc. This is the most important part of the process, however. Sometimes your child’s counselor may have to work with them for a bit before being able to answer this question. But the truth is, working with kids is a totally different process than working with adults. As children’s counselors, we can plan as much as we want, but we have to follow the child’s lead and readiness—so it does take time. Though this isn’t a concrete answer, I hope that it does not discourage you from seeking help for your child. Giving your child the opportunity to experience the therapeutic relationship, and allowing them to play and learn about themselves in a safe, nonjudgmental space is healing in and of itself!
“What kinds of things will my child do in counseling?”
This totally depends on the therapist, but most of us turn to creative activities when working with your kiddos. I love to break out the kinetic sand, play dough, coloring pages, etc. and watch the child play and create. This is one of the best ways to get to know a child’s world and let them have some control in a world where so many rules are made for them. I take common games like Jenga and Candy Land and turn them into therapeutic games that allow me to better get to know the child—and make counseling fun, of course! I love getting crafty and bringing in supplies to make ‘calm-down’ bottles—which the kids love to make and use them at home as a way to self-soothe and be mindful.
Beyond the creative activities, I cater to each child’s interests and needs. If I am working with a child who has ADHD and I know that they will learn more if we are active in the room, then I’ll plan an activity that will not only keep them active, but capture their attention! I tend to work a lot on self-esteem and positive self-talk with most kids, and there is always work to do on learning about emotions, and how our thoughts and actions play a part! Again, every child is different, and a good children’s counselor will tailor their activities to each child’s developmental stage, their likes, their dislikes, and needs.
“What should I tell my child about starting counseling?”
If you’ve been in counseling yourself, this might be a little bit easier to explain to your child because you’ll have the experience. If not, you should explain that counseling is a safe place where they can talk to their counselor about anything they want—their worries, stresses, what makes them angry, etc. You should tell them that this is a place just for them where they can play and learn with their counselor—make it sound special, because it is special for them! Finally, if you’re feeling nervous about taking them to counseling, be aware that they may pick up on this (as you well know, kids pick up on everything!) and try to get them excited about it. We counselors know that most kids will probably feel a little uneasy about starting this new, strange thing, so we do everything we can to make it as fun and comfortable as possible!
“Am I allowed to know what’s going on in counseling?”
The short answer: Absolutely. Your child’s counselor should be willing to keep you informed and you should never feel like you are being kept in the dark. The counselor should bring you in on the first session to help give some information about what brings your child into counseling, and they may do that from time to time for check-ins to ask you about any changes over the course of treatment. You should never feel like you are being left in the dark. However, don’t expect your child’s counselor to tell you every detail about what is going on in therapy. For your child to succeed and feel safe, there must still be confidentiality. Your child’s counselor can let you know the general themes that are being covered, and of course, will inform you if there are any safety concerns regarding your child. Otherwise, let your child tell you as much as they want, and try your best to trust the process! And if you have concerns or you are feeling left out, reach out to the counselor and communicate with them!
I hope this was at least a little helpful as you begin the journey of helping your child grow and learn more about themselves. Stay tuned for more posts on this topic, as well as specific posts on what your child may be dealing with. We will be talking about ADHD, anger, anxiety, and other behavior problems and areas of focus!
Taking the step of getting help for your child means that you are doing something right—even if you feel like you’re doing the parenting thing all wrong. Take a deep breath, parents. There is help out there, and you are not alone! If you think counseling can help your child, please reach out to Breaking Free Services today and take that first step!