Expert Advice for Parents on Children and Psychotherapy
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Many parents feel that they must have failed if their child has been prescribed therapy. What are your tips for guiding parents through this experience?
MW: It’s important to understand the context of therapy. It’s not because the parent made an error. The whole occupation of parenting is incredibly difficult. So my first point would be to tell parents that they should give themselves a lot of leeway, because coming to therapy is really a courageous step. Asking for help with parenting is appropriate. We give the parents tools so they can know more about their child—our first role as therapists is to empower parents.
LPGS: What part of parenting does not cause guilt?! It is most certainly normal to feel responsible for your own child, and parents should understand that they are taking a caring step for their child by bringing him or her to therapy.
MW: My second tip would be to encourage parents to ask questions—even if a question crosses the line, which is exactly the type of question that may end up being part of the building of the relationship. And it’s also important because kids look to their own parents to see how safe the world is, how safe they are. My third tip would be to shape your expectations. We all know that when a child has an infection, it will be 10 days of antibiotics…but we don’t all know the routine behind the mental health process.
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