As the adage correctly states, it takes collaboration between various parties to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. This is especially so if a child is going through a challenging time and demonstrating behavioral and emotional distress.
Research has shown that parental involvement is essential to positive therapy outcomes for most children, regardless of age. Typically, the younger the child the more involved a parent should be. Parental involvement is especially important in the translation of therapeutic skills from the clinic to real-life situations in the child’s life.
In short, it is crucial that parents act as drivers of prescribed therapy at home. Active participation is key. As a parent, how can you actively contribute to your child’s therapeutic journey? Here are some suggestions:
- Be engaged in your child’s therapy session where possible. Take notes and ask questions when in doubt. It is appreciated when a parent shares concerns about various skills or strategies taught in session and provides honest feedback about their child’s responses to the therapy. This enables the therapist to accurately pinpoint issues and appropriately adapt the therapy sessions to better accommodate the unique needs of the child.
- Be prepared to do “homework”. One of the most important roles of a parent in therapy is to ensure that their child practices the skills learnt in session and to facilitate generalisation of these skills while in a home environment. This may involve parents taking some time out of their schedules in order to engage the child in some exercises. In addition, the parents should note any questions which may arise and document progress so that it can be readily addressed at the next therapy session.
- Facilitate necessary communication between your child’s therapist and other stakeholders. Sometimes, it is important to engage other stakeholders in the child’s therapy such as the school and teachers. It is very helpful if parents take the initiative and open up the communication between all stakeholders. This will help everyone better understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses and how to better support in various settings.
- Finally, while it is encouraged to be involved, be careful about being over-involved and attempting to dictate the direction of therapy. As a parent, one might experience anxiety or impatience and feel the urge to act on these emotions. Should this occur, it is important to address these concerns with the therapist and work together as a team.
Remember, while the therapist is the expert of the relevant theoretical knowledge and therapy process, the parent is ultimately the expert of the child! When parents and therapists collaborate, progress and empowerment inevitably results.