As a parent, you want only the best for your child, but when they are experiencing problems at school, with friends, or with their behaviour or emotions, you may not know the best way to help them. Sometimes your child or teen will be open about their difficulties and will ask for outside help. Other times it may be you and your spouse who need help with knowing how to respond to certain situations.
There are several avenues of intervention when children are the focus, and often a combination of these will work best. Sometimes it may be helpful to have a session with me before bringing your child. This will allow us time to discuss the issue and background and give you an opportunity to express concerns that you may not want to discuss in front of your son or daughter. If your child is seeking help and your family have good communication about the issue, you may wish to attend sessions as a family. Older children sometimes prefer to have sessions without you present, but I will often encourage you come in for the last 5-10 minutes so you can have an overview of the session and be informed of the interventions or strategies your child will be working on. This allows you to provide support and encouragement while your child works on the issue, but they will take the bulk of the responsibility for the therapy ‘homework’ – the work done outside of sessions.
For young children with emotional, social or behavioural difficulties, it might be that a play based therapy is most beneficial. PCIT (Parent Child Interaction Therapy) involves parents being coached live in applying therapeutic methods with their child during play in order to improve agreed upon target concerns. It has been shown to be effective in improving child behaviour and emotion regulation, as well as parenting skills and parent-child attachment. Learn more about PCIT here
If your child or teen is reluctant to come to therapy, there are often many things you can do yourself to improve the situation. This is the case for more serious psychological difficulties, as well as school and social problems. Often the way you react and the patterns of response you engage in will have a significant impact on your child. If you find yourself in this situation, I would be happy to speak with you about the best way to approach your specific situation and support your child.
When issues are school-based, or are impacting your child during the school day, it can be important to involve the school (teachers and/or counsellors) and to enlist their support. I often work closely with schools during assessment and therapy. Consistency is key, so knowing an issue is being managed the same way at home and at school will ensure the best results.
If your child’s school has recommended psychological, cognitive or psycho-educational testing you can find more information about this here.