By Meagan Jackson, LPC-S, RPT-S
You have been worried about your teen. You have web searched to exhaustion about what’s going on with them. A school professional has recommended counseling, and/or you feel like you are just beyond what you can help them with. You are ready to take the leap and support your teen through these big feelings by taking them to counseling. Now how do you talk to them about it?
This can be very intimidating for many reasons: A lot of parents worry that they may upset their teen – OR – or that by saying that the teen needs counseling it will somehow mean that the parent isn’t capable/strong enough/knowledgeable enough as a parent. I want to support you, parent, as you take this big step. Today I’m going to share some of the big questions parents of teens ask me when they start this process.
How do I talk to my teen about counseling?
So the good news is that Mental Health Awareness is on the rise: meaning most teens know someone personally who is going to or has received counseling in the past year. This can be very helpful for teens and parents as the conversation about mental health is becoming less stigmatized. You most likely aren’t starting the conversation from the ground up. With that being said, counseling is to support teens and families by creating a safe place to learn about themselves and gain skills to support them through big emotions, problems, issues.
How do I tell them I’m worried about them?
You can start by talking to your teen about what you have seen in them that causes concern for you using objective statements (I have noticed that you are not enjoying things that you once enjoyed, I have noticed that you don’t want to be with your friends as much, I have noticed that you seem sad more often). Then talking to them about finding support to help them through this by working together to find a counselor that can support them.
What do I tell them they will be working on in counseling?
The goals, or what they will be working on, should be created with the teen’s input with the counselor: meaning that the teen should get to have a say in this and take ownership of it. But Meagan, my teen doesn’t want to even come! How are they going to make goals or take ownership? Yes, there are many teens that feel this way and a lot of times, in my experience, it’s because the teen doesn’t want to come sit with another grown up who is going to “shove ‘how to be a better person’ in their face”. That’s not what counseling should look like for teens, children or adults. Counseling for teens should be a partnership that allows the teen to grow skills and express themselves in a developmentally appropriate way. Shop around and find someone who you and your teen can work with.
This is another journey for you and your family. Supporting your teen by reaching out is a huge step parent! GIVE YOURSELF A PAT ON THE BACK!