Children are resilient, yet they are also impressionable. Interruptions of their lives can send a healthy, happy child spiraling into negative feelings and destructive behaviors. When a child endures a trauma, it's best to be proactive to help them deal with the feelings that come up now and in the future. Once you've decided to take them to family counseling, prepare your child to get the most of the experience.
Be Up Front and Honest
Sometimes parents are afraid of letting the child know that they will be attending therapy and why they have chosen this method of treatment. However, a child will feel betrayed if therapy begins without understanding the reasons why. Explain that therapy is not any sort of punishment, and in fact, it's there to help them.
Explain the Basics
While most adults have a general idea of what therapy entails from books, movies, and TV shows, if not their own experiences, many children can find the idea of going to a counselor daunting. Be sure to explain the basics of therapy:
- Explain how talking to a therapist is different than talking to a friend.
- Discuss how each session will be a certain time period.
- Talk about what you hope the counseling sessions accomplish.
- Promise that what the child says to a counselor remains confidential, and you won't punish them for being honest in a session.
- Encourage your child to directly ask the counselor any questions they have throughout the counseling journey.
Listen to Your Child
A child will likely have a strong opinion or at least instant gut feelings about the idea of going to family counseling. They may be afraid. Some kids won't be willing to open up. One way to engage your child is to ask open-ended questions so that you can better assess how they are feeling about it. You may want to try some of the following questions:
- Have any of your friends ever been to counseling or therapy?
- I'm concerned about how the trauma is making you feel. Did you know that discussing it in counseling can really help you process it and feel better?
- What comes to your mind when you think of counseling sessions?
- What do you think this experience will be like?
- How would you like to take control over the experience?
- What can I do to help you feel better today?
You may then inspire your child to ask their own questions. Listen patiently and answer them to the best of your ability. If your child asks something you don't know the answer to, suggest writing it down so that you can ask the question together in the counseling session.
Finally, keep in mind that you shouldn't ever hold what a child says in a family counseling session against them outside of therapy. They need to be free to express themselves and how they feel without fear of repercussions. It's important to follow through and keep all the promises made during the preparation process and in each session of family counseling. Contact a company like Giblin Consulting for more information.