I work with children; therefore I also work with parents. Often, because of the realities of work schedules and managing multiple responsibilities in a family, only one parent comes to a session at a time. And that’s ok, but for those parents not in the room, I want you to understand the many ways in which you are a part of the therapy.
I want to affirm that you are a necessary piece to this process. The modeling you do at home, the ways you encourage or discourage the hard work your child is doing in therapy, your willingness to try new ways of managing conflict or supporting the child that is depressed or anxious – all of these things make an impact. Just because you’re not in the room, doesn’t mean you’re not in the room. Your child carries you with them, whether it be the family anxiety trait everyone jokes about but is overwhelming to an 8-year-old, or your reaction to their anger and sadness, or the stress you’re experiencing at work that bleeds over into family life. This is one of those hard realities of parenthood that can be beautiful, and can also be burdensome.
Even when I don’t see you in the office, I still believe there is a deep care for your child, so I want to offer some thoughts that I hope will help you be part of the therapy process.
- While your child may not want to talk about the details of what we discuss in session, ask them how they feel they are growing and how you can support them in that process.
- Ask about their comfort level in therapy and affirm them for having the courage to be more open about whatever struggles they are having.
- Be willing to receive feedback and act upon it.
- Be aware of when their next appointment is, and offer an encouraging word beforehand. Also, recognize that immediately after an appointment might be a sensitive time, so consider carefully what questions you ask or comments you make about their mood.
- Learn to model what you want to see in them, even if that means you need to learn some new skills yourself. Emotion regulation, conflict resolution, empathy, problem-solving, frustration tolerance, and organization are skills your children are learning and see you use regularly. If you would like to be modeling something in a more positive way, find the next step to developing it and using it at home.