Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Your child has started going to therapy, or maybe they've been in therapy for some time now. Often we find that when parents bring their children to therapy, they frequently express feelings of discouragement, defeat, confusion, shame, frustration, and anger relating to their child and/or their parenting experience. We want to let you know that it is okay to feel this way.
The key to getting a successful outcome in therapy is to build a relationship with your child's therapist. This is why it's important to talk about your family history as it provides important information about the genetic aspects of their child’s strengths and challenges. More importantly, it gives us a rare insight into each parent’s relationships with the important adults during their own development as we are all shaped by relationships and experiences throughout our lives.
As parents describe the behavioral, academic, and/or social challenges that their children are facing, some parents may relate to their child’s challenges whilst others are able to identify challenges they observed in siblings or extended family members. These parents want to make sure that their own son or daughter goes down a different path.
As an example, we would like to share how Tiffany and Micheal, the parents of a 7-year-old boy Thomas who frequently throws tantrums at school and at home. Thomas has started Play Therapy, during this time Tiffany and Micheal have learned a great deal through Thomas's journey.
When Tiffany and Micheal first came to us, they shared their difficulties with managing Thomas's inflexible behavior, each of them began reflecting on their upbringing and the ways in which their own parents imposed expectations. Tiffany explained that her mother had consistent daily routines in place that were not only predictable but rarely challenged. She describes herself as a compliant child and adolescent and further shared that her father had a quick temper that she and her older brother would often avoid provoking him.
We observed that Tiffany, with a tone of frustration, stated that at some point in her life she would like to feel in charge. She did not feel in charge as a child, and she didn’t feel in charge of her own son. In fact, she felt strongly that Thomas was in control of their lives. Tiffany's experience of accommodating others has been recreated in her relationship with Thomas. She felt like she was walking on eggshells to avoid provoking Thomas and experienced feelings of guilt and resentment toward her son. Tiffany had little awareness of these feelings prior to our conversations.
Up to this point, Tiffany's history had been influencing her reactions to her son; however, with this newfound awareness, Tiffany is better able to monitor and control her own emotional responses to Thomas. This new knowledge has also helped regulate Thomas's emotional state and behavior leading to a lot of improvement in his tantrums.
Therapy is here to help you and your child to live better. The quality of the relationship with our parents or other significant adults in our lives directly influences how we relate to our children. Whether we like it or not, we can sometimes hear the voice of our parents in our heads as we deal with our own children. At times we are reminded of our unresolved past trauma because relating to our children can become a re-enactment of the early experiences we had with our parents. Trust the journey and be patient.