Introduction: Explaining Counseling to Children
Anxiety, depression, and OCD are just a few things that children deal with
1.) Give Them a Basic Definition
Before heading to counseling, your child needs to know where you’re going. When you tell your child that you’re heading to “counseling” they might freak out because sometimes it has a negative connotation attached to it. Other children have been known to tease those who go to ‘counseling.’ There’s been a lot of misconceptions spreading and that’s why you need to explain to your child that it’s a safe place designed to help them with whatever problem they’re facing.
2.) Explain or Draw Out What Happens
You don’t want your child to head in completely oblivious to what will be happening. Instead, explain to them what the counselor will go over, what they can expect, and how they will feel. If you have younger children, consider drawing a picture. Show them exactly what they can expect so that they’re not taken off guard. This will also help to calm their fears before they get to the counselor’s office.
3.) Highlight the Fun Aspect of It
Depending on the type of counseling, it can sometimes be fun. Counselors who deal with younger kids incorporate games to help a child open up and feel ready to share. These games are designed to relax a kid, make them feel safe, and make them feel ready to open up about what’s causing them pain. Counselors have a variety of different games that are also designed to help them gather information from the child without making them feel overwhelmed. This allows a kid to open up without even realizing that they are.
4.) Have the Counselor Meet the Child Beforehand
If possible, have the counselor step out of the room to meet the child first. A new place can feel scary and overwhelming. This is especially true when a child is meeting a new person and going to a new place for the first time. Instead, break the two up and introduce one at a time. This will stop a child from feeling overwhelmed.
5.) Use a Book to Help Answer Questions
If your child is a visual learner, consider getting them a book. There are many different books available that can show your child what counseling is and what it aims to help with. They can find a book that they relate to. Read it to them before bed the night before or on the way to the counseling appointment. Books have a power to make children feel safe because it shows them they’re not the only ones dealing with a certain problem.
6.) All Children Need a Safe Space
All children deserve to have someplace safe where they can talk openly and honestly without fear of being judged by peers, friends, or family. That’s exactly what counseling is. Explain to your child that it’s a place where they can speak to someone who won’t judge them, someone who will help them feel better, and someone who will simply listen. Highlighting a counselor as a ‘safe person’ will help your child feel protected. More kids are seeking mental health treatment and it’s important to eliminate the stigma that surrounds it.
7.) Approach the Topic Gently, Don’t Overwhelm Them
When you first approach the topic of counseling with your child, you don’t want to frighten or overwhelm them. They’re learning something new. They might not have even heard of the term counseling before you brought it up to them. That’s why it’s important to talk softly, break down the information, and introduce it one at a time. The last thing you want to do is scare your child.
Conclusion: Just be Honest
Overall, you just want to be honest with your child and chances are that they’ll listen. Do not lie to them about what counseling is. That will only make it worse when they hear the truth from others.