As a parent, if you’re thinking about adding a therapist to your family’s village, you’re probably wondering how involved you should be in your child’s therapy. Although every situation is unique and is dependent on the child’s age, specific needs, and other factors, child therapy is typically most successful when parents are involved.
Parenting Tips for Supporting your Child’s Therapy:
1. Set the stage for collaboration.
You and your child’s therapist are on the same team. While you may have sought out a child or adolescent therapist for their knowledge on anxiety, behavior management, or other areas of expertise, you are still the expert on your child and can offer valuable insights about your child and your family. The therapist will typically meet with you before meeting with your child and it’s critical that you feel comfortable being forthright about your child’s strengths and struggles. This will help the therapist work with you and your child to set appropriate therapy goals. Remember, change takes time, so keep an open mind. At the same time, be upfront about any concerns you have about the therapist’s methods or suggestions so the therapist can answer your questions as they arise throughout the course of your child’s therapy. When you and the therapist work together, your child is more likely to feel supported and to succeed.
2. Be hands on in your child’s therapy.
Particularly if you are the parent of a young child, your role in your child’s therapy is critical. The therapist will be relying on your involvement for many reasons. In some circumstances, a parent-based intervention, where you attend weekly meetings with your child’s therapist, may be the recommended approach. These interventions can be especially helpful in situations where a child is very young or unwilling or unable to participate in treatment. Even if your child is involved in regular therapy sessions, remember that the therapist is only seeing your child for a fraction of their week! Therefore, your child’s therapist may rely on you, as the parent, to help coach your child on skills learned in sessions and to report back about how your child is progressing at home. It’s up to you to provide the therapist with an accurate picture of whether your child is able to apply the skills learned in therapy to daily situations.
3. Find the right balance.
If you’re the parent of an adolescent, you likely have your hands full as you try to guide your teen while simultaneously understanding their growing desire for privacy and independence. As a parent, you are entitled to information about your child’s therapy. Keep in mind that teens typically get the most out of therapy when they have a strong relationship with their therapist. In order to promote a safe space, teens often need to trust that many of the personal thoughts and feelings that they disclose to their therapist will be kept private. It’s a good idea to have an open conversation with your teen and your teen’s therapist to establish boundaries and expectations for parental involvement in therapy so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Provide ongoing support.
Set up periodic meetings with your child’s therapist to talk about your child’s progress and how to best support your child’s treatment. If you have a co-parent, your child will also likely benefit most if both parents participate and work collaboratively with each other and with the therapist. Whether it’s providing a fuller picture of your child’s needs, participating in parent or family sessions, or practicing skills with your child at home, your involvement in your child’s therapy will likely be key. If you feel stuck or uncertain about how to proceed, ask your child’s therapist for specific parenting strategies or other resources to help you and your child in this journey.
If you are considering therapy for your child or teen in New York or Connecticut, contact Positive Development Psychology at 914-432-4000 or at info@PositiveDevelopmentPsychology.com to learn how we can help.