Maybe you feel that counseling would be beneficial for your child or teenager, but your kid happens to disagree. This is actually a very common problem among families. Here are some tips to consider:
- Choose a child/family specialist. Child counselors have specific experiences, training, and abilities to connect with kids and adolescents. They have a keen sense of the developmental needs of youngsters and find ways to make counseling interesting, fun, and less intimidating. In fact, a talented child counselor may have kids so engaged in play or art that they almost forget they are going to counseling.
- Normalize the counseling experience. Frankly, counseling may seem a little weird or scary to kids. If you have ever been involved in counseling before, it may be appropriate to share that with your child to help him/her know that it is normal to go to counseling. Also, make sure your child knows that counseling is not like it looks on TV.(Meaning kids will not be lying on a couch talking about last nights’ dreams!)
- Emphasize the family nature of counseling. By explaining that the counseling process aims to improve the whole family, you can help to avoid making your kids feel like their being singled out. Always have regular conversations with your child’s counselor to keep the family aspect at the forefront.
- Compare counseling to something familiar. You might try talking about the similarities between going to counseling and going to the family doctor. You don’t always go to the doctor when you are feeling sick or have a major medical issue; sometimes you go for a check-up. Counseling is the same. Attending counseling is like going for a “happiness check-up.” Counseling keeps kids developing in a healthy way when stressful things are going on around them.
- Offer support, but not too much. Let you child know that you will make him/her feel comfortable and introduce the counselor at the first session. It’s ok to attend all or part of the first session with children, depending on their level of comfort. As time goes on, you can work with your counselor to determine ways to let your child continue with counseling independently.
- Give a time limit. Perhaps you could suggest that your child attend 4 sessions with the counselor. That way your kid knows that there is an end in sight if they need it and that they can get through it. Chances are by the end of 4 sessions, your child will feel confident in attending counseling and he/she will actually want to continue.
What if you have tried everything on this list and your child is still adamantly against meeting with a counselor? Simply put: Don’t force it. You do not want to increase your child’s aversion to counseling. If you stay calm and give your child some control over the situation, it will help to keep counseling as an option for the future if necessary.
That being said, if you have are worried about the safety of your child, your family, or someone else, you absolutely have a responsibility to seek help. Call a professional right away and that person can help you assess the level of care that your family needs.