When a child is getting ready to start individual or group counseling sessions, parents often wonder how best to introduce the topic to their child. While many older pre-teens and adolescents have a general understanding of therapy and the basic goals of therapy work, children may feel a bit confused about spending time in an office with a new adult. Here are a few recommendations that may help guide an effective conversation with your child:
Always choose an appropriate time. Avoid mentioning therapy when your child is experiencing big emotions. Talking about therapy during times of dysregulation may make therapy seem like a punishment, threat or a consequence. Instead, talk to your kiddo about going to individual or group therapy sessions when your child is calm and rested. Be sure to give your child time to process the information prior to the appointment.
Explore what your child already knows about counseling. Most kids have had some exposure to counselors through their school environment. Ask them what they know about counselors and any questions that they may have about what a counselor does. This will help you keep the conversation efficient by avoiding emphasizing information a child already knows.
KS Services provides free consultations prior to the first session. This will ensure that each parent has an understanding of what can be expected in a given session. For children twelve and under, counselors at KS Services will work to understand a few of the child’s interests in order to incorporate those in session (ie Legos, paint, drawing, etc). Use this information to provide a glimpse of what therapy will be like and what the child can expect in their first session. Let your child know that individual or group therapy will involve more than just talking - kids have freedom to paint, play games, build, and even pet emotional support animals!
Kids like a preview of what topics may be covered. If you are signed up for a group, use the information provided to give your child an overview of some of the topics that may come up. Let your child know that therapy is flexible and often counselors will focus on the topics that the kids bring up. Reassure your child that therapy isn’t only about things that are hard, but therapists love to hear about things that are going well too.
Present counseling sessions as learning experiences that are fun and engaging. Let your child know that they are signed up for a group or individual session as an opportunity to learn more about themselves, their friends, and their family. Present counseling sessions as an adventure in self-discovery. Let them know that this opportunity is a learning opportunity just like any other after school activity that they participate in. That may sound something like, “Just like we sign up for soccer so we can learn how to be a good teammate and skills for the field, we signed up for this to learn how to understand our own feelings and thoughts and learn skills for everyday communication."
If you have any questions about how to approach this conversation with your child, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you have not yet had a chance to sign up for a group that KS Services is currently offering, please check out our "Join A Group" page here.
Licensed Professional Counselor