Children come with a variety of gifts, skills, and difficulties. Through understanding the needs of the children and the expectations of each parent, the family will outline the trends that have been established and define the areas which need work. In a therapeutic setting, the child will develop suitable rapport and begin to present the internal and external concerns for treatment.
Each child comes into this world with specific tasks to accomplish given whatever the temperament, limitations, and family style. And each is different not only between families but within the family. The parents, with exhaustion and worry and the demands of life, must in the best way possible step up to the challenge. Each step in development has challenges and these must be accomplished for the child to move forward.
Initially, the young child is needing reassurance. Needs are relevant and heard with calm and consistency by dependable caretakers. The world needs to be a safe place. Then, this little one begins to assert a skill set in order to recognize the world is under his/her control although often in the most awkward way.
School days come and the objective becomes competency, mastery, and acceptance into the bigger world. For children, this can be scary, big, and worrisome. Other influences take hold and cause question and confusion. The demands are cognitively, emotionally, and socially challenging. There are peers, teachers, and coaches who may have positive or negative impacts.
Some children have the verbal skills to dialog with a therapist but others, often younger or less secure, need play, art, and a comfortable setting to use imagination and less conscious thoughts to present. They can then master the questions and move to the next issue.
While the therapy content is private, the issues are not. The child lives within a family and that family must be part of the safe solution.
These days, it’s hard to know if it is more difficult to be the parent or the teen. For some, becoming a parent themselves made them forget the two-way dynamic.
That adoring child who reached up to you to be soothed now wants to be nowhere near you, and you are ‘stupid’ and a true nuisance. They answer questions with a shrug, an eye roll, and, “You’re not the boss of me.” You hope that your guidance, direction, and lessons have been incorporated and they will show good judgment and restraint when needed. Then puberty happens. And they get a driver’s license.
For a teen, it is time to figure it all out… and out from under a watchful eye. But all of the changes come with some trepidation. The task is to individuate and find one’s own identity. Depending on the individual, this may or may not be handled well. New steps are always tough. Issues of academic competency, career choices, financial independence (while still getting allowance and the car keys), and sexual choices are not easy.
Often, parents do not understand, tolerate, or address these struggles with softness, structure, or skill. The addition of a therapist…. who has been through both sides… adds perspective and gives a place for the adolescent to express and move forward without judgment. This process moves the family through the current situation, or season, and beyond.