Can You Help My Child?

Originally Posted on March 17, 2013 by BJ Howell.

Can you help my child? This is a question that I get at least 2x a month. The call comes from a desperate parent of a child or teen who is exhibiting inappropriate behaviors. Behaviors like throwing tantrums, lying, stealing, skipping class, uncontrolled anger, talking back, sneaking out of the house, hanging out with the wrong crowd… and the list goes on… For any parent, these behaviors are difficult to handle. But this is what I do…so, the answer is always yes. However I make sure they understand that healing depends heavily on how involved the immediate family will be and if they (the parents) are willing to attend sessions with and without their child. I also like to break it down so they know how I work and what they can expect from therapy.

I cannot “fix” your child.

I cannot make them stop acting out.
I cannot make them stop lying, stealing, hoarding or being disrespectful.
I cannot make them stop having tantrums.
And finally…
There are no secrets to having a well behaved child. There is no fairy dust or magic wand that will change things. It is going to take hard work from you and your child.

Therapy is a process. It can sometimes be looked at like peeling an onion. There are several layers to work through. The brain is amazing in that it can unconsciously provide a defense against thoughts and feelings that are too difficult to handle. So, gently peeling the layers back, while creating safe supports, can take time.

So if I can’t “fix” your child, what do I do? What I can do as a therapist is help facilitate healing by working with you to figure out what your child is trying to communicate. Behavior is a form of communication. So, if a child is acting out and misbehaving, usually there is something going on that they cannot express any other way. This could be because they are not consciously aware of it or they simply haven’t developed the appropriate skills to deal with it. I help them learn how to appropriately handle their emotions and feelings so that it becomes safe for them to feel them and express them. I do this by talking with them, using play therapy, using biblio-therapy, observing, and utilizing techniques that facilitate healing. I do not assign blame, as that is counter-productive to healing. I do look at the full picture. Family structure, siblings, discipline, daily activities and most importantly, how do the members of the family handle emotions. I think it is safe to say that every family has a level of dysfunction within it. We explore if something within the family system is adversely affecting your child. So, learning how your family interacts with each other is just as important as learning how your child interacts with the world around them.

As a therapist I can teach your child appropriate way to express feelings. I can give you and your child the tools needed to stay regulated. Most of all, I can help you create a safe environment that is conducive to healing and overall well-being. I’d like to quote Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me. I am who I choose to become”. Therapy is not magic. It is simply an avenue to make conscious change. How things got to the breaking point is irrelevant. How you choose to move forward is where the focus should lay. And while I can’t do the work for you (or your child) I can provide a level of care that is individualized to meet the needs of your child and I can be there every step of the way. So I encourage you to be the change that you want to see in your child. Choose healing…and be empowered.

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