How to Talk to Your Child About Seeing a Psychologist

It is important to be honest about why you are coming in and not to surprise a child with the information.  It will make it more difficult and uncomfortable to have a discussion about why the child is in therapy if the child feels they were tricked or caught off guard especially when they are meeting someone new the first time. It is better to prepare to talk to your child ahead of time. Wait for a calm moment and identify the concern. Offer empathy and compassion, such as “it must be really hard”, “we want to help”. You can let your child know that he/she will have an opportunity to talk without a parent in the room as well and bring up any ideas or concerns they have.

The following are recommendations for talking points:

  • It’s important to explain that your child will just be talking. There is no physical examination or shots
  • You can talk to your child about how the therapist has helped a lot of kids and if they met with her the therapist might help the family to understand the concern better and to help generate ideas that may help.
  • Let your child know that they will have an opportunity to talk without the parent in the room and they can discuss any concerns or issues or ideas that they are having.
  • You can talk about the concerns as family matters, instead of placing the blame on the individual child. Talk to the child about how the therapist may have different ideas for the family to try out.
  • Mention that it’s helpful to get advice from someone who is “neutral”.
  • If your child refuses to go or says that they will go or won’t talk try to get them just to go just for one appointment. Most children and teenagers will feel comfortable and empowered to talk to the therapist once they meet the person.
  • Let your child know that what they talk to the therapist about will be private and the therapist will not share what they talk about unless they want the therapist to (unless the therapist believes they are someone else is in danger).

How to Make the Most Out of Your Child’s Therapy

Starting therapy can be new to both parents and children and it can be difficult to know how to get the most out of the experience. The following are suggestions to help with increased success.

  • Let your child come to you when they want to share about what they are talking about in therapy instead of grilling them with questions. This lets your child know that therapy is a private place and empowers them to be in charge of their own treatment.
  • It is okay to remind your child that therapy is a resource to practice new skills and bring up any concerns that come up but try not to bring this up all the time. Otherwise the child may feel like your intruding or that therapy is a punishment for the concern.
  • It’s okay to let your child know of any concerns that you think would be a good idea to bring up in treatment. But don’t use therapy as a threat or form of discipline. For example, threatening to tell the therapist if behavior doesn’t improve.