Taking kids to therapy session can cause a parent to feel apprehensive and anxious. Thankfully, there are ways to go about it to help both children and parents feel more at ease.
Step 1 – Timing the Talk
One of the worst things you can do is to start discussing it with the child on the way to their first therapy appointment. You should first tell your younger child about therapy at least two days before the first meeting. It should be a little longer, around one week before the initial therapy session for teenagers.
This timing process gives the child ample time to ask questions and feels more comfortable about going to therapy.
Step 2 – Have a Calm Setting and Mindset During a Therapy Session
When you are calm and empathetic, your child senses it and will likely respond in the same manner. Eliciting anxiety or too much excitement can cause the child to feel overwhelmed and uneasy.
You do not want to tell the child when you are angry with them or after scolding them for something they did because they may correlate therapy with punishment.
Step 3 – Explain What Therapy is All About
Having a thorough explanation of what therapy entails can help ease your child’s mind, which will offset any apprehension they may have. Many kids may feel embarrassed about going to a therapist, so alleviating that is vital.
During your explanation, make sure to use age-appropriate language.
- Let your younger children know that their therapist is similar to their pediatrician; while a pediatrician is a doctor for physical health, a therapist is a doctor of feelings.
- Since your teenager probably knows what therapy is, allow them to tell you what they perceive a therapist does, then discuss that and alleviate any fears or negative impressions.
Give your child a simple breakdown of what to expect in a therapy session from beginning to end.
- For younger children, let them know that there will be fun activities such as drawing and games besides talking.
- There will be problem-solving activities for teenagers where they interact with the therapist, allowing them to be an intricate part of achieving valuable solutions.
Step 4 – Point Out Issues the Child is Facing
When discussing issues the child is having, you must reassure the child that therapy is not a punishment.
- Identifying behaviors the child is exhibiting should be done calmly and pleasantly.
- Point out feelings the child is having, such as anger and sadness.
- Give validation to your child’s struggles while providing a healthy course of action to help through therapy.
- Describe the problems you see in a matter-of-fact and non-judgmental way.
- Avoid making the child feel guilty about their behaviors by encouraging them to open up and talk about their feelings when these behaviors occur.
- If they do not want to talk about them with you, you can present therapy as a safe place to discuss them.
Step 5 – Benefits of Therapy Session
It can also help to make comparisons to help your children understand the value of therapy. For instance, you can explain that just as exercise helps improve muscles in the body, therapy can enhance our minds.
Be excited for your kids to get therapy, because your excitement will rub off on them. Encourage them on their “new adventure” and reinforce this perspective by letting them know how lucky they are to have a person to talk to and play with each week.
For younger kids, point out that there will be fun toys and exciting games. Whatever your kids enjoy doing, make sure to inform the therapist so they can try to include such activities in their sessions.
Teenagers will want to set the tone during the therapy session, so letting them know they will be in the driver’s seat will help motivate and pique more interest in the therapy session.
Another helpful strategy is to point out that many people seek therapy, and it is very common these days. For example, many celebrities are currently in therapy, such as Selena Gomez. Getting help to feel better is a cool thing to do!
Let your child know that therapy is a beneficial way to discuss any problems they may be having at home and school with others or even inner struggles they may be having. Informing your child that they will learn various coping skills will help shed a more positive light on whatever challenges they are experiencing.
Talking about therapy with your kids does not have to be stressful. Calmly pointing out all the positives will encourage your kids to accept therapy. After all, helping your kids feel motivated to improve themselves by getting therapy is the greatest goal.
Ultimately, we want our children to be happy and healthy, physically and mentally. Getting our children the help they need will benefit them and reinforce the bond between children and their parents. This heightened connection will further deepen the love and communication with friends, family, and themselves.