For those of you who have kiddos, it can be difficult to know when or if they need counseling support or what they might look like. Also, it can be challenging to know how to talk to them about counseling without making them feel as though they are doing something wrong or that there is something different about them. As a society, it would be amazing to reduce the stigma about going to counseling or working on mental health, but until then, we, the parents, have to handle these conversations. Often, with the kiddos I work with, their parents also attend counseling sessions with another counselor. By attending counseling, the parents can help the kiddo understand that it is very normal to participate in counseling, and the support can be very beneficial.
When starting the conversation with your kiddo, be prepared to answer questions, especially with the younger kiddos. When kiddos hear that they are going to an appointment or a doctor’s office, they start thinking about getting a shot or something to do with their physical body. Remember to talk about how counseling is about feelings and understanding feelings. Also, remind the kiddo that the counselor is a safe space, and if they are old enough, talk about what confidentiality is. Many kids do not want to open up in sessions because they are scared of what will happen when they share specific information, so it is crucial to help them understand confidentiality and what that would look like. If they ask more challenging questions, help them make a list to bring to their sessions with them, and the counselor will be able to fill in any blanks.
Counseling sessions are not one size fits all. Kiddos can do the sessions alone with the counselor, or the parents can join, or even the counselor could meet with the parents to answer questions or provide additional support. The sessions can consist of talking, playing games to help build skills, drawing, coloring, and video games for skill building, but everything works towards a goal. A lot of parents have it in their mind that counseling is just talking, but that does not work for all (or most) kiddos. Kiddos have a lot of energy and do best when they have an activity to engage in. Different kids work best with different tools or activities; the counselor’s job is to help find the tools/resources that work best for that kiddo.
In my sessions, if the parents are okay with it and the kiddos enjoy it, we use video games for skill building and to reduce anxiety to create a space that supports them in opening up and feeling comfortable talking about feelings or experiences. Games, video or otherwise, are beneficial to increasing skill development; sharing, taking turns, and working through big feelings when they are frustrated or when the game is not going how they expected. Counseling works to create a safe space for kids to not only feel their big feelings but to express those feelings and learn to understand the feelings while building skills to help reduce significant behaviors.
If you have any questions about counseling or have any questions about what it might look like for your kiddo, feel free to reach out to a counselor to get more information. Some counselors do not work with kiddos, but if they do not, they can direct you to a counselor that does. Reach out to Northwestern EMDR Therapy today, and let’s explore the best counseling options for your child’s unique needs.