Telling Your Child He/She Needs Therapy

The simple title of this post could cause some parents anxiety. For a variety of reasons, some parents are truly terrified to even try to tell their children that they may need to see a therapist. Many children should see a therapist after their parents divorce or separate, but that’s a tough thing to talk about.

Will they be angry? Defensive? Emotional? Will he think that you see him as a failure or not mentally stable? Psychotherapist Kate Scharff believes that the parents often have a harder time believing that their kids need therapy than the children do. Here’s what she says you can do to make the discussion go as smooth as can be:

Wait for a calm moment. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many parents will get into a fight with their child and, in the heat of the moment, yell “You need therapy!” This is obviously not a good idea and will only elicit a negative response.

Identify the problem. Don’t make vague statements about what you think may be happening. Tell them exactly what you’ve noticed that has concerned you. This may help them realize some of their issues that therapy might help fix.

Offer compassion. Again, this might not need to be stated, but be as compassionate as possible. Your child will need comforting and an understanding ear to speak to.

Explain therapy. Research it and study how therapy works. This will take away some of the mystery and scariness.

Once therapy is underway…

Don’t “grill” your child. He/she may want to talk all about it or not at all. It’s ok to ask a question or two, but don’t ask 20. That may actually be quite counterproductive.

Remind them that therapy is a resource, but don’t say it too often. And please, do NOT say it as a defense mechanism… ie- “You should really see your therapist more often…” in a heated moment.

Don’t use therapy as discipline. Don’t make your child see it as a punishment, or he/she will never want to go.