By: Patricia Dean, LCSW

Having a child with mental health issues can be challenging for parents. It is sometimes difficult to discern what is normative behavior and what is something else. As children enter puberty the changes to their brain and body may make understanding them even more challenging. If your child is withdrawn and expresses feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness it may be time to consult an expert.

When a child or adolescent is engaging in therapy parents often ask what they can do to support them in the home. Each case is unique, as is each family. There are, however, some general things parents can keep in mind:

· Change doesn’t happen overnight. Give therapy a chance to work. If your child’s therapist gives you a plan to use at home, try it out for a couple of weeks. Abruptly changing direction can be confusing and negate any progress that has occurred.

· Parenting equals leadership. Parents are the most influential people in a child’s life. Your thoughts and behaviors influence your child. Think about what you say and do. Ask yourself how your child might understand and internalize your words.

· Modeling is the most effective way to shape behavior. What you do may make more of an impact on your child than what you say.

· Your child is not you. Parents sometimes see their children as extensions of themselves. Children are individual people and are not exact copies of their parents. Their choices and behaviors reflect what they experience.

· Children and adolescents process information with the emotional part of the brain. Adolescents may look and sound grown but their decision-making skills are a work in progress.

· Keep it simple. Children need consistency. Establish clear rules and expectations. Follow through on rewards and consequences. Knowing what to expect helps to build a trusting relationship.

· Let your child problem-solve. Children feel empowered when they believe that actions originate internally. Having a sense of agency allows children to feel that they have control and influence over themselves and their environment.

The goal of therapy is to address mental health concerns in a way that leads to healing and growth. Successful therapy is a team effort. Meet with your child’s therapist. Ask questions about treatment goals. Follow recommendations and remember there is no quick fix.

We are currently offering online therapy! To schedule an online therapy session, please contact us at 202.333.6251 or fill out our contact form