Teens and Parents

For parents of teenagers:

If you’re reading this page, you probably have some concerns about your adolescent’s mood, behavior, or school performance. You may have thought about consulting with a therapist or counselor.
Maybe you’ve already asked your child to consider counseling and received a resounding “NO” in response. Here are some suggestions about talking to your adolescent about therapy.

Tell your teen that you’re concerned. Be very specific about the behaviors that worry you. Let her know you want to help with whatever is bothering her.
She may react defensively – she may feel as though she is the problem.
Kids don’t live in a vacuum.
Kids’ behaviors affect others and others’ behaviors affect them.
Reassure her that this is a family problem and the family will work together to help her feel better, develop better-coping skills, and better relationships at home.

Let her know the time and place of the scheduled appointment.
Invite her to call the therapist with any questions before the scheduled appointment.

Your child may say he’s not going to any therapist.
Suggest that this is a great opportunity for him to be heard and a chance for you to learn more about what he needs.
Tell him that although you really want him to participate in therapy, you’re prepared to go to without him.
Let your child know that you just want him to go to the initial session and see what the therapist has to say.
Your child doesn’t need to commit to anything beyond that.

However, 99% of the kids I see for an initial assessment agree to work with me in therapy.

You may find it reassuring to learn that many kids initially refuse to go to therapy but actually attend the first scheduled appointment (and future appointments).

If your kid won’t budge, go without him. If your meeting with the therapist goes well, keep going. Chances are, the therapist can help you help your teen. Keep inviting your child to attend, but don’t let “therapy” (or lack thereof) become the only topic of conversation.

If your teen decides to participate in therapy, great!
Do your best to respect your teen’s budding relationship with the therapist.
Be mindful of boundaries and privacy issues.
Unless there are safety concerns, the therapist cannot repeat what your teen says.
However, experienced adolescent therapists have learned how to manage confidentiality issues while still including parents in the therapy process.