We tend to think of family therapy as a patient-and-therapist relationship, but helping your children navigate their struggles and become adults is also part of family therapy. Let’s take a common example:Your ten-year-old comes home in tears. She spent the day at school being shunned by her usual group of friends. When you ask her about the tears and the kind of day she had, she doesn’t want to give you any details. “It will only make it worse!” she wails. What should you do?
Friendships are very important to preadolescent children. They want to spend time with their peers. Friends have a great deal of influence over preteens and teenagers, so when they deliberately leave someone out, it can make a young person’s life miserable. This can happen to both girls and boys.
Watching your child suffer can be agonizing. Is it possible to be helpful to your child without increasing her ostracism and therefore her suffering? The answer is yes.
The first thing to do is simply make yourself available. Spend time with your child without pressuring her to talk. Try to give the feeling of inviting her to talk without making it seem like you are prying or pressuring her. It can be helpful to find an activity she enjoys doing with you.
When she does begin to talk, just listen. If she needs help to keep talking, ask a simple question or two. Questions such as, “Where (or when) did this happen?” or “Who else was there when it happened?” can help your child keep talking. Try not to ask direct questions like, “How did you feel?” or “What did you say?” As your child tells the story, be as nonjudgmental as possible.
The more your child can say about the situation, the more aspects she will understand. This can help in the future. Peer interactions can be difficult for children and parents alike, but talking can help whether it’s in a formal therapeutic setting or at home. If you have questions about talk therapy or are looking for a Vermont family therapy resource, get in touch. We’re ready to help.