What Therapists Wish All Parents Knew

Child Meeting with a Therapist
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Asking for help in managing a child’s behavior is one of the most courageous things parents can do. Saying, “I’m not sure what to do about my child’s behavior,” is a scary thing to do admit. But, most behavior disorders and mental health issues are treatable. Here are seven things therapists wish all parents knew:

1. Minor Parenting Mistakes Won’t Scar Your Child for Life

Sometimes parents worry that their mistakes will permanently scar a child for life. While there certainly are some parenting issues that can lead to lifelong consequences, most little mistakes are pretty harmless.

When you aren’t able to follow through with a promise, or you temporarily stop enforcing a few rules, your child may learn how to deal with other people’s mistakes more effectively.

2. Doctors Can Be a Wealth of Information

Parents are often hesitant to talk to doctors about anything other than a child’s physical health. But if you have concerns about your child’s mood or behavior, it’s important to discuss those concerns with your child’s pediatricians. Doctors can help determine if your child needs further evaluation for developmental, behavioral, or mental health issues.

3. Getting Help Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Medication

Sometimes parents are hesitant to seek help for a child’s behavior problems or mood issues because they worry their child will be given medication. While medication can be one form of treatment for issues like ADHD, there are also many other treatment options available. Play therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and parent training are just a few of the ways your child’s issues might be addressed without medication.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether medication is best for your child. Even if a doctor or psychiatrist recommends your child try medication, parents get the final say about whether or not they want to administer that medication.

4. Seeking Help Isn’t a Sign of Weakness

Asking for help takes courage and certainly isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s a clear sign that you want the best for your child. Whether you’re seeking an evaluation to determine if your child has a learning disability, or you’re signing up for a parenting class to address your child’s temper tantrums, your willingness to seek support shows your desire to help your child reach his greatest potential.

5. Your Child's School Doesn’t Need to Know About Therapy

Parents and kids have a right to confidential treatment. The school doesn’t necessarily need to know if your child meets with a therapist. There may be times that a therapist recommends telling the school, so that your child’s teacher can assist in treatment planning efforts, but it’s up to parents to make that decision about whether or not to involve the school.

6. Parental Involvement in Treatment is Important

Parents play an active role in addressing behavior problems. For example, rather than teach a child anger management skills during a weekly therapy sessions, it's often more effective to teach the parents how to coach the child.

Because parents are with children many more hours per week than the therapist, parent training is often the preferred method of treatment.

Sometimes, that means divorced parents, step-parents, and other caregivers need to work together to help a child.

7. Behavior Problems Stem From a Variety of Issues

Your child’s behavior problems don’t mean you’re a bad parent. Behavior problems can stem from a variety of issues, ranging from underlying behavior disorders and disabilities to past trauma and sleep issues. Parent training programs can often be effective in helping parents identify alternative discipline strategies that may be more effective in meeting a child’s needs.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parent Training in Behavior Management for ADHD. Updated September 30, 2019.