Therapy. It’s a taboo subject, especially when it comes to kids.
We all love to talk about our children’s accolades. Sharing their wins and accomplishments with one another is one of the joys of parenting. I am so proud when my kids shine, and I share it unabashedly. I love hearing about my friends’ children, too. I love to be there to celebrate and share not only milestones, but the wonderful little moments that make up their lives.
But what about when it’s hard?
Your child making the honor roll, hitting a home run, or winning an award – all are amazing moments. Your child struggling to the point of needing intervention or therapy – not so amazing, tricky, and something you might not feel comfortable sharing.
My child goes to therapy. He’s a tween, and he’s gone for years. I think his first therapy session was as a first-grader. Why? Because he needed intervention for his behavior. He needed care that was beyond a level that my spouse and I were capable of providing. We as a family needed some strategies to help him and us deal with our everyday lives.
What does this mean?
For my child, it means that he has trouble processing big emotions. We all have BIG feelings – hurt, sadness, anger, joy, and more. For him, dealing with the influx of negative emotions is overwhelming. He’s quick to anger, quick to spike a temper, and quick to react – sometimes physically. Something that might not seem like a big deal to someone else can send my child into a tailspin. And once he’s in a tailspin, it’s very difficult to get him back to “normal”.
At first, I was ashamed.
The school would call repeatedly. He had a wonderful teacher and support through social work intervention. But it wasn’t enough. The negative reports about my son were overwhelming. Parents would text me asking why my son was being so mean to their children. I overheard the whispers of his peers, making fun of his “anger issues” and his need to use the class safe spot on a daily basis. A student in his class screamed at him, calling him the worst kid in the school. No one wanted to be his friend.
It was devastating. What was I doing wrong as his mother?
I broke down in tears one day at school pick-up – surprising myself, and shocking the educators that I was talking to at the time. Thank GOD for sunglasses. They masked most of my pain, hurt, frustration and shame.
But it’s not about me. My son’s anger management struggles are not my fault. But it is my responsibility to help him move forward in a positive and productive manner.
I am very vocal about this, and very passionate about sharing this very point: Yes, sometimes a child’s negative behavior is the result of what’s going on in the home. the ‘Kids learn from their parents,’ or ‘Kids model what they see’ mentality. Right?
but i’ve learned that it’s not that black and white. sometimes the issue is more complicated than that. and so i dug deeper, and hoped for grace for my child…from everyone.
It took a while. The first person that offered us treatment was a Child Psychologist. He was wonderful. But it wasn’t a good fit. He couldn’t identify a root problem for the behavior. He kept searching for a traumatic event or life-altering experience that he could attribute to my son’s negative behavior. But there wasn’t one. We mutually decided to find a better fit for our circumstances.
The next individual was a school social worker who had set up a private practice. Her form of counseling and therapy was amazing. It just clicked with my son. He liked her, he liked her strategies and he could easily talk to her and work through situations through role-play and meaningful play-based discussion. She set us down the right path, and I will be forever grateful for the role she played in my son’s development.
My son “graduated” and had a couple of therapy-free years. Until we found ourselves in need of intervention once again.
I think it will always be this way. And as his parents, we are happy to put in the work. We know when our child is struggling. We know when he’s not happy, and when his big emotions start to overwhelm him to his detriment. We know when we are out of our depth as his parents, and when we need to seek a level of care above and beyond what we are capable of providing.
If your child is struggling, I understand. If the school seems to have you on speed dial, I empathize. If you’re frustrated and unsure of what to do, I SEE you. Please know that you’re not alone. Parenting can be SO hard, but you’re not alone.
In our family, therapy is a part of our lives. It always will be. And I’m not ashamed that my son attends a weekly session with the “feelings doctor” as we call her. It’s my job as his mom to ensure that he has every possible skill necessary to function as a capable and well-balanced human being now, and throughout his life. I will do everything I can while he is in my care to ensure that we are doing just that.
Therapy shouldn’t be taboo when it comes to kids. After all – kids are people, too. Sometimes we all just need an opportunity to get our minds right.