Learning to 'Trust the Process' When Your Child Starts Therapy
Everyone at my house loves to play games. In fact, we love games so much we frequently have game nights during the week. Unfortunately, though, it was during one of these recent game nights my oldest child completely fell apart. After my partner and I calmed her down and put the kids to bed, we came to a conclusion I wasn’t prepared for at all — my daughter needed therapy.
While that may sound extreme, I can assure you it wasn’t. This wasn’t the first time we’d encountered a moment like this with my child over the past few months, and judging by the anxiety attack she experienced, I venture to say it won’t be the last one either. And, as experience has taught me, it’s better to seek help in the early stages than when things bubble over too much.
Even though I knew therapy would likely help, I struggled with the decision for several weeks. I wrestled with the research and the back-and-forth via email and phone with each potential therapist. I carefully compared the cost differentials and credentials of each therapist who met our availability and needs. I confided in my partner and my own therapist, hoping one of them would help me figure out what to do.
Mostly, though, I found myself completely absorbed in my own emotions about the situation. I wrestled with the blame I placed on myself because that voice in the back of my head kept telling me it was my fault that my daughter needed therapy. I even convinced myself my poor parenting and my own mental health conditions were the cause of all of my child’s struggles, which was quite the pill to swallow.
Now that my daughter has started therapy, though, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief.
Although my daughter is safe, she is dealing with a lot and has been for quite some time. Some of the issues she’s faced are the same ones many kids her age are dealing with, like the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the volatile world we live in. Other ones are completely unique to her — and that’s OK, too.
In these first few sessions with her therapist, I’ve realized just how much she needed someone to talk through these “big people” things with and really process all of the thoughts and feelings she’s experiencing. She needs someone who she can trust, but someone who is also trained to help her work through the complexities of her emotions. And, although we’ve only just started, I think she’s getting that.
Furthermore, I feel like having a professional opinion is helping ease some of my fears and misplaced blame. Not once has the therapist said I “messed the kid up” or anything that would imply my daughter’s need for a therapist is my fault. Instead, she’s actually pointed out all the things I’m doing “right” and merely helping the entire family navigate our current circumstances.
While it’s hard to sit and wait each week without knowing what’s going on in the therapy room, I’m trying my best to just trust the process. After all, I’ve seen therapy work wonders in my own life over the years, and I know it’s important to let my daughter “do her thing” without inserting myself too much. At the end of the day, what matters is my child is getting what she needs at this moment from someone specifically trained to provide what she needs, and that’s it.
If your child is also starting therapy at this time, I hope you can really take these words in:
Everyone needs therapy sometimes, even kids.
You’re a good parent for recognizing what your child needs and making sure they have access to those services.
Whatever is going on with your child right now, is not your fault.
When you feel that blame bubbling up or your fears start to eat away at you, just remember those words and trust the process. You’re going to get through this moment, and your child will, too.
Getty image by skynesher