How To Discuss Counseling With Your Child?
Updated: Oct 30
Try DEAR MAN! A great way to get anyone, to do what you want!
A 7 Step communication style to use with your children, partners and colleagues.
Warning: Be prepared for your child to DEAR MAN you back after some counseling!
Describe The Situation
“I want to talk with you about going to therapy.”
Be neutral, non-judgemental and direct.
Express Your Feelings
Use "I" statements to express how you feel. Do not say "you should" do this or that. Avoid making assumptions about your child's problems such as, "You are depressed and anxious." Stick to the facts you know. You know how you feel. Simply stating your feelings is less likely to result in an argument than giving unsolicited opinions and interpretations of your child's behavior.
" I love you so much and I am worried about you. I feel like something is wrong."
Assert with Validation
“I want you to meet with a Counselor. What do you think?”
Ask for what you want directly. Allow your child to express their opinion and thoughts. Accept what they have to say. Recognize your child's opinions and feelings without trying to convince them to think or feel differently. Roll with any resistance they might present to the idea of counseling. For example, if they say "I'm fine. I'm just tired. I have so much to do at school and at home. You don't need to worry about me." You might respond with "I appreciate how much you have to do. Other than feeling worn out, everything seems okay to you. You really wish I wouldn't worry about you." Validating another person, does not mean that you agree with them. You are simply acknowledging their reality. This is such a powerful way of relating to someone that it has been shown to reduce people's perception of real physical pain.
You have expressed your feelings and validated your child's perception. Now restate the importance of what you need.
"However much you would like me to not worry and give you a break, I couldn't sleep at night knowing that I wasn't taking care of you and doing what I think is right for you."
Choose a good time and place to have your conversation. Make sure everyone has eaten and isn't too tired or rushed. Put away devices and turn off the television. Stay in the present moment. Notice your breath, body tension, tone of voice and your surroundings. You cannot control how your child reacts but you can control your behavior. Model for them how you would like them to behave.
Radiate gentle confidence and wisdom in your request. Modulate your tone of voice, not too soft, not too loud. Avoid ending your sentences with upward inflection which implies a question or doubt. Keep your posture open and tall with your arms uncrossed facing forward and slightly to the side. While good eye contact is important, try to avoid being "too intense" as many young people perceive this to be overbearing.
Give to get. This does not mean "giving in" or "being weak." The spirit of negotiation is to think about what you can do to facilitate cooperation. Ask your child, "What can I do to make it easier for you to go to counseling?"
If they ask for something you can reasonably do, then do it. If not, you might say "I'm not comfortable letting you blow off your exam this Friday but we could schedule your first session on Monday." The idea is to maintain your limits while at the same time offering alternatives. Is there a day or time that is better for them? Something special you can prepare them for dinner? A responsibility you are willing to allow them to give up in order to make room for therapy?
End by stating your agreed upon commitment. Thank them for helping to put your mind at rest by agreeing to try counseling.
"We will go for our first visit on Monday after your exam. I know you will be especially tired and hungry afterwards so we will stop by your (favorite place) on the way home for dinner. Thank you for agreeing to go."
Fauchon, C., Faillenot, I., Quesada, C., Meunier, D., Chouchou, F., Garcia-Larrea, L., & Peyron, R. (2019). Brain activity sustaining the modulation of pain by empathetic comments. Scientific reports, 9(1), 8398. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-44879-9
Naar-King, S., & Suarez, M. (2011). Applications of motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing with adolescents and young adults. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (2015). DBT®skills manual for adolescents. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.