Childhood introduces many events that trigger a wide variety of negative emotions for children, from the fear of an invisible monster lurking under the bed to the acute anxiety that often accompanies the first day of school. Every new event requires superhero strength just to get by because of the uncertainty of trying something new. When the time comes for your kid to participate in an individual child therapy session, the fear and anxiety generated can be off the charts.
If your child gets a little agitated before the first day of a new school year, imagine the emotional turmoil going on inside when you discuss taking your kid to a therapist. How do you prepare your child for individual child therapy? Is there a magic formula that automatically eases a child’s incredible level of angst caused by the unfamiliarity of meeting someone for the first time?
Although parents do not have a magic wand to wave that immediately soothes the soul of a child about to attend the first individual child therapy session, there are a few things they can do when explaining what to expect out of the first therapy meeting.
Timing is Everything
Because a new and unfamiliar event such as individual child therapy frequently agitates children, you should find a time when your child is calm before explaining what is about to happen. Children that are already wound up have a difficult time understanding the concept of therapy, as well as why they have to attend a session. Your child might feel individual child therapy is a form of punishment for acting out in school or not completing chores around the house.
A calm state of mind is necessary for your child to have an open mind concerning the first therapy session. This is especially true for teenagers that want a chance to express themselves, but have a healthy dose of skepticism when interacting with adults.
How Much Does Your Child Know About Therapy?
Before explaining therapy to your child, ask what your child thinks therapy is all about. Maybe a classmate has undergone at least one individual child therapy session and your child references that experience when describing what unfolds during the first session. Determining how much your child knows about therapy allows you to mold your explanation when your turn comes to describe what your child should expect while interacting with one of our licensed therapists.
Provide Your Explanation
One of the keys to explaining therapy to your child is to emphasize that undergoing individual therapy is a normal part of growing up. You can explain interacting with a therapist allows your child to share feelings and experiences the child feels uncomfortable discussing with other adult authority figures. Stress the importance of your child having a safe place to talk about anything and above all, be supportive when your child starts to ask questions.
Explain that the therapist interacting with your child has received extensive training and has considerable experience helping other children learn how to cope with life’s many stressful situations.
The Bottom Line
Do not expect your child to fully accept the idea of individual child therapy. Give your kid time to process the significance of the first session and make sure to remain positive even if your child reacts negatively. Remind your child that therapy is not a form of punishment, but instead, it offers your kid the opportunity to share feelings and experiences with a trusted professional who helps children confront life’s numerous challenges.