“But if I tell you who I am you may not like who I am and that is all I have.” - John Powell
The challenges of raising healthy children in the 21st Century are legion. Many of them are reflected in the questions above. I include middle school children in this section because they have so much exposure to pop culture and media in general, that as pre-adolescents they face some of the same issues that only high school children faced even a half generation ago.
Adolescents are often forced into therapy by their parents or some other authority figure, like a school counselor. Goals for therapy may include a need for specific behavior changes, or to address more general concerns about a child's anxiety or depression. Once they are engaged non-judgmentally, most children soften into the process of therapy and many even find they like it. Initially I request to meet with both parents and their child to lay out the limits of confidentiality and to hear about the situation from each person's point of view. While respecting confidentiality, and depending on the parent-child relationship, I encourage my adolescent clients to share their concerns with their parents, especially if doing so can help resolve their issues. If they are willing and need help with this, joint sessions with parents may be indicated. If they are unwilling and they are sharing a dangerous situation with me, they already know from our initial ground rules that I will share the information with their parents in order for us to continue working together.
As older adolescents begin to separate from their parents, some parents worry that the closeness they had when their child was younger, is bound to disappear. Teens consistently show me that even though they want their independence, they still want a positive relationship with their parents. Growing children continue to require lots of attention, throughout the teen years. Your teen may behave in a way that appears contrary to this fact. It may be hard at times to know precisely how and when to set limits during these years. Very tricky and sometimes confusing situations may arise, challenging parents to have the wisdom of Solomon. Depending on the presenting problem and the nature of the parent child relationship, I encourage parents to work with me on ways they can better problem solve at home.
Middle and High school children in therapy often benefit by gaining a better understanding of their parents’ concerns too. Sometimes I find they have an uncompromising view of what it takes to maintain their parents’ trust. I reality test with them.
Because children are exposed so early to media, they are acutely aware of world problems today, (ie. economic downturns, gun violence, global warming). As a result they often have lots of anxiety about their future and therapy can help them to gain more confidence in negotiating their world.