How to Set Your Child up for a Successful Counselling Experience

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Getting your child started with a new counsellor can be a tricky parenting hurdle.  Depending on your child, getting them into a counselling office can be a tough sell.  Often kids are open to the experience but there are a variety of negative reactions to seeing a therapist ranging from slight opposition to flat out refusal.

Below are a few strategies you can use to set your child up for the best counselling experience possible!

·       Let your child know that they are going to see a counsellor – the “surprise” approach to counselling can create a large rupture between your child and their counsellor before they even meet

·       When you let your child know they will be seeing a counsellor encourage them to ask any questions they may have 

·       If they have any questions you can’t answer encourage them to ask their counsellor at their first appointment

·       If your child is feeling nervous about seeing a counsellor walking by the office a few days before their first appointment is helpful to orient them

·       Don’t use counselling as punishment or as a consequence for “bad behaviour”

·       Try not to bring your child in for counselling appointments hungry – low blood sugar has been known to impede the therapeutic process

·       Whenever possible, try not to schedule appointments during your child’s preferred activities – if they spend their counselling time wishing they were at soccer it can hamper the therapeutic benefits

·       Be mindful not to single out your child in front of siblings or peers by pointing out that they are seeing a counsellor

·       Normalize the counselling experience for your child and make it clear that being in counselling doesn’t mean they are a “bad kid”

Children can greatly benefit from counselling for a variety of challenges.  If you’ve decided it’s time for your child to see a counsellor the above strategies will help set you and your child up for success.

Every situation is unique and counsellors can provide more specific information depending on what challenges your child is facing.  If you have any other questions schedule a time to speak to your child’s counsellor for further strategies. 

Best of luck!

Tips for Managing your Kid’s Tech Time This Summer

Summer is here and the structured schedule and demands of the school year are fading away.  Children and teens may be enticed to fill their new spare time with their devices.  Parents appropriately worry that their children and teens will hole up with their device of choice rather than engage in typical fun summer activities.  Here are some tips to help your family avoid a device driven summer:

·      Set clear limits and expectations around technology use

o   Time limits on internet use and clear expectations regarding online activities are good boundaries to set for your child’s summer technology use.  Be clear and concise to reduce potential conflict over ambiguous rules and reduce loopholes your kids could use to get around your rules.

·      Be consistent           

o   Set your boundaries and then consistently enforce them.  It will show your kids that you mean what you say and plan to follow through.

·      Don’t expect kids to self-regulate their technology use

o   Know your kid – if they’re going to be too drawn to online activities to self-monitor their own adherence to rules, help regulate it for them.  You can set your kids up for success by changing passwords on wifi networks and reduced their access to devices.  Tote your kids tablets to work if need be!

·      Don’t just say ‘no’ to tech time, provide ideas for alternative activities

o   Have a brainstorming session with your family to come up with non-tech alternative activities that they enjoy.  Once they’re engaged in fun summer activities it will reduce their drive to get online.

·      Strive for balance between tech time and non-tech time

o   Don’t reduce tech time to zero.  Come up with a summer plan that includes device use and alternative activities at a ratio that suits your family’s needs.

·      Get involved in non-tech activities with your kids

o   Planning summer activities for the whole family will help enforce your tech policy, promote the fun of non-tech activities, and show your kids that you follow the family tech policy as well.

Parenting and Gratitude - Exciting New Book!

There is a new fantastic book out there to help parents navigate the challenging task of raising grateful children in our materialistic, fast paced world!  Gratitude & Kindness, A Modern Parents Guide to Raising Children in an Era of Entitlement is a practical, relevant, and easy to follow resource for parents.  Written by two experienced psychologists, Dr. Fry and Dr. Ferrari, Gratitude & Kindness comes with great suggestions for fostering a culture of gratitude in your children and family as a whole. 

In my counselling work with families, the issue of entitlement consistently comes up among a parent's chief concerns.  It is often cited as the instigating factor in family conflict and reported as the reason for seeking the support of a therapist.  Dr. Fry and Dr. Ferrari provide an amazing tool kit for parents to combat the development of entitlement and help parents connect their children to gratitude.

Positive psychology research supports that the practice of gratitude can have vast positive impacts on the lives of children.  Fostering this strength in children can help them manage their emotional experiences, develop their self-esteem, strengthen peer and family relationships, develop work ethic, and excel in the world we live in.

Do the children in your life a favour - read this book!

Parenting and Technology - You Can Swim but can You Tweet?

Recently, a blogger I follow likened teaching kids to be tech savvy with teaching kids to swim.  The latter is something most parents place importance on, the former is an area we often let them figure out themselves.  Most parents learned how to swim in their own childhood and thus it is a logical skill set to pass down to their kids.  How are parents supposed to teach and guide their children in the ways of growing up with technology when it’s outside of their realm of experience? 

Parents – it’s time to learn how to keep your head above the turbulent waters of the ever-changing world of technology.

Technology has vastly altered the landscape of childhood and adolescence as a large proportion of the social interaction children and youth engage in is now occurring online.  This is a drastic change from the phone conversations and in person social interactions of previous generations.  Today’s children are facing the challenges of socializing and dating via social media and text message without support from their parents, who are typically very inexperienced at such things.  So how do parents gain experience and take on a supportive, even supervisory, role?  Learn to be tech savvy.

There are many different options on how to get your feet wet in the world of social networking and virtual relationships.  There are hundreds of blogs and websites dedicated to parenting and technology.  You can likely find a myriad of talks and seminars in your community addressing the challenges of parenting in our technology driven world.   Luckily, though, most parents have an expert right under their nose!  Your child is better equipped to teach you about technology and the role it’s playing in their life than anyone else out there. 

But how do you get your child to teach you about technology and how they interact online day-to-day?  Be curious and open.  Check the judgment at the door and approach your social networking education with sincerity and respect.  We adults may all laugh about the lack of authenticity in online social relationships but to our kids – it’s real.  Showing your child that you respect their online life will reduce the risk of being placed on the other side of a defensive brick wall.  Acknowledging and validating your child’s experiences will make them far more likely to share them with you. 

Alternatively, there are many different types of monitoring software you can install on your devices that will report back to you exactly what your child has been up to online.  While this approach is effective for information gathering it poses the risk of diminishing the trust in your relationship with your kids.  Also – typically kids are better at these things than their parents and will likely find a way around your virtual nanny cam, leaving you scrambling to get ahead of them again.  If monitoring software is the way you want to go, informing your children that their online endeavors are not private is a great way to preserve your relationship.

The technology explosion demands that parents adjust their parenting approach.  It’s important for parents to take an active role in their child’s relationship with technology and be well aware of the role it plays in their child’s life.  Parents - get on your water wings and jump in!