shutterstock_1723848115_2jo0GfW..jpeg (shutterstock_1723848115.webp)Childhood can be a wonderful and rewarding stage of life, but as children attempt to navigate the world around them, it can also be fraught with emotion and complexity. In addition to the natural changes that come with growing up, some children also experience mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Fortunately, help through various forms of therapy to treat these issues is available.

As parents, we want our children to receive the best possible care when it comes to their mental health. However, navigating a child's therapy journey can feel overwhelming and daunting. To help you succeed, here’s a simple guide on what to do—and what not to do—when embarking on this important journey.

Understanding Your Role in Your Child's Therapy

It's essential to understand that you, as a parent, are not the primary therapist for your child. The first step in helping your child is to come to terms with the fact that they need help and it’s okay to seek outside support. This means finding a qualified therapist who can provide quality care tailored specifically to your child's needs. Here are some essential dos and don'ts to consider about your role in this process:

  • Do Seek Information: One of your most important roles is to learn about your child's mental health, including any concerns or conditions, as well as the therapy techniques used to address them. This could involve doing independent research, attending relevant workshops, or speaking directly with youth mental health professionals. The more informed you are, the better positioned you'll be to support your child's therapy journey.
  • Don't Rely Solely on Google: While the internet can be a great source of information, it should not be your only go-to when it comes to understanding your child's therapy process. It's crucial to avoid misinformation and not fall into the trap of internet diagnosis. Make sure to validate any information you find online with your child's healthcare provider or a trusted mental health professional.
  • Do Maintain Open Communication: Open and honest communication between you, your child, and their therapist is vital throughout the therapy process. Be sure to keep the lines of dialogue open and express your thoughts, concerns, and questions openly and respectfully. This could include discussing your child's progress, therapy methods used, and any roadblocks encountered along the way.
  • Don't Overstep Boundaries: While your involvement is crucial, it's also essential to respect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship between your child and their therapist. Avoid intruding on their sessions unless explicitly invited and maintain a respectful distance to allow your child's independence and trust in their therapist to flourish.
  • Do Respect Their Privacy: Understand that the trust between your child and their therapist is important and must be respected. Unless the therapist feels that your child is in danger or at risk of harm to themselves or someone else, the specifics of what your child shares during their therapy sessions will remain confidential. This confidentiality is a crucial aspect of fostering an environment where your child feels safe to express their thoughts and feelings openly.

Supporting Your Child

Your support can greatly influence how your child experiences and benefits from therapy. Think of therapy as a team effort—while you may not be directly involved in their sessions, you can help your child throughout the therapy process by setting up a positive environment at home.

Here are some dos and don’ts for supporting your child during their therapy journey:

  • Do Show Patience: Your child will have good days and bad days. Be patient with them and the process, and recognize that change will come in its own time.
  • Don't Pressure Your Child: Placing too much pressure on your child to 'perform' or recover quickly can create unnecessary stress and may even hinder their progress. Ensure they understand that it's okay to take their time and move at a pace that's comfortable for them.
  • Do Offer Encouragement: Positive reinforcement can go a long way in motivating your child to engage with their therapy. Praise their efforts and accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem. Let them know you're proud of their courage and determination.
  • Don't Dismiss Their Feelings: If your child is struggling or expressing negative emotions, validate their feelings rather than dismissing them. Assure them that it's okay to feel upset, scared, or confused, and that you're there to support them no matter what.
  • Do Foster Open Dialogue: Encourage your child to talk about their therapy experience if they're comfortable doing so. This can provide you with insight into how they're feeling and what they're learning, and can also make them feel more supported and understood. However, it’s important to avoid putting pressure on your child to talk about their therapy sessions before they are ready.

Looking After Yourself

Navigating your child's mental health challenges can be difficult for any parent. Therefore, it's crucial to take care of your own mental health during this process. Here are some dos and don'ts for self-care:

  • Do Maintain Balance: Between therapy sessions, work, and other responsibilities, it can be easy to neglect your own needs. Remember to allocate time for self-care, relaxation, and the activities you enjoy. This will help maintain a healthy mental state and provide better support for your child.
  • Don't Overburden Yourself: It's normal to feel overwhelmed during your child's therapy journey. However, don't let it consume all your energy. Prioritize your physical and mental health and take breaks when necessary.
  • Do Seek Support: It's perfectly acceptable to ask for help. Lean on your support network, whether it's friends, family, support groups, or mental health services. They can provide emotional support, address mental health concerns, give practical advice, or just lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Do Seek Support: It's perfectly acceptable to ask for help. Lean on your support network, whether it's friends, family, support groups, or mental health services. They can provide emotional support, address mental health concerns, give practical advice, or just lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Don't Neglect Personal Needs and Interests: Taking care of your child doesn't mean sacrificing your personal life. Continue to pursue your interests and hobbies, as they can act as a source of comfort and stress relief.
  • Do Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. It's okay to feel stressed or anxious. Accept your feelings and be patient with yourself, just as you are with your child.

Just like your child, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. A mentally healthy parent is more equipped to handle the ups and downs of their child's therapy journey.

Preparing for Long Term Success

Just like your child, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. A mentally healthy parent is more equipped to handle the ups and downs of their child's therapy journey.

  • Do Set Realistic Goals: Understand that overcoming mental health problems is not a race, but a journey. Set achievable goals with your child's therapist, and celebrate each milestone along the way.
  • Don't Look for Quick Fixes: While it might be tempting to seek shortcuts, they often don't address childhood mental disorders in a meaningful and sustainable way. Remember, overcoming a mental health disorder is a journey that requires patience and commitment.
  • Do Be Consistent with Therapy: Consistency is key when it comes to therapy. Ensure your child attends all scheduled sessions, and reinforce the strategies and techniques learned during therapy at home.
  • Don't Avoid Difficulties: There will be challenging times, but avoiding them won't help in the long run. Encourage your child to face their difficulties head-on and use the tools they've learned in therapy to cope.

At Capital Area Pediatrics, we're here to support you and your child every step of the way. We offer a comprehensive suite of services aimed at addressing children's mental health concerns and supporting families on their journey.

Our experienced staff is here to guide families through the process of diagnosing pediatric mental health disorders. Our team consists of providers who are extensively trained in the evaluation and treatment of common mental health conditions. Furthermore, we offer universal screening services to our pediatric patients, including those showing early signs of distress.

Counseling services are available at several CAP locations, extending our reach and accessibility to those in need. To schedule, your child must first be seen by one of our pediatricians, who will then refer them to our in-house counseling services. For families needing basic medication management services, our team is equipped to assist.

For more complicated cases that require a higher level of specialized care, we can provide referrals. Transitioning to the next stage of care can be challenging, but we're here to facilitate the process. Your doctor will also introduce you to our specialized mental health care coordination services. This system allows specialists and your pediatrician to communicate and collaborate effectively while caring for your child. Additionally, our team can recommend supportive resources available in your local community to further support your family's journey.

With a dedicated, compassionate team and a range of services, Capital Area Pediatrics is committed to supporting families dealing with pediatric mental health disorders every step of the way.

From well-child visits to specialty care, the team at Capital Area Pediatrics is here to help your family stay healthy all year long. Request an appointment online, or find a location near you today.