When would you consider therapy for your child? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 01-27-2016, 08:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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When would you consider therapy for your child?

Hello Ladies ~

I don't post here often at all but you're the first ones I thought of when I started pondering this question.

A little background:
I'm a single mom raising one 10 yr old boy. I've been single his entire life and his father (whom I divorced during pregnancy) is not involved in his life at all.

I speak very openly (but age appropriately) about my marriage and how it ended and have never said an unkind thing about his father.

I tell him often that I'm lucky to be able to be his mama.

I work from home. We are financially stable. Have a great community of neighbors and friends with plenty of male role models. He even has a "big brother" through the BBBS program that he likes.

He's doing well in school, has friends, does well in sports (black belt in karate, soccer championships, etc.)

He's a reserved kid (not outgoing) but anyone who met him would say he's sweet and generally a good guy.

But there is something deep inside of him that hurts. He's angry. He tells me that he thinks we were "mismatched" and I wasn't supposed to be his mom and he wasn't supposed to be my son. His first emotion to any situation is negative - and anger (with me) is his go to reaction.

But he's complex - because he still insists on hugs and kisses every night before bed. We always hug and kiss before he leaves the house. He regularly tells me he loves me. And I in return.

Which brings me to my question. When does seeking professional help seem necessary?

Is this deep emotional pain something that will just need to work itself out over the years? Does is seem so encompassing due to the intenseness (one on one) of our relationship?

He's really really emotionally intelligent and I worry that making a therapist appointment might damage trust between us. (He has friends who've seen "worry doctors" and doesn't think he (we) needs one.

As a single mama, I'm looking for opinions/advice to make the best decision I can.

TL;DR = Outwardly (school, sports, behavior, food/sleep) he's awesome. Internally there brews pain and anger. Do I let him work it out and when do I force the issue with therapy?

Thanks!
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#2 of 7 Old 01-27-2016, 02:07 PM
 
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Since you've discussed it with him and he doesn't think it's something he needs, I agree that making him an appointment would feel like breaching his trust.

My experience with seeking family therapy was that although my partner and I wanted someone who would talk with us AND our son to work out problems between the three of us, all of the counselors wanted to talk with the parents without the child present at least part of the time, and all but one counselor expressed the belief that problems with children are always rooted in the parents. I don't particularly agree. However, this gives me the idea that it might be helpful for you to see a therapist alone to talk about your relationship with your son and that you might be able to get advice on working through his angry spells even if the therapist never meets him.

I think you're right that this is "complex" and not a situation that obviously needs immediate help. He isn't physically harming or threatening you, right?

You might read up on the idea of "locus of control" in psychology. Everybody falls somewhere on a continuum between an external locus (blaming others) and an internal locus (blaming themselves) and some people tend to make very strong and sudden judgments in negative situations: "Something's wrong! It must be YOUR fault!" There are various strategies for shifting the locus of control, things that you can work into what you say in response to his anger.

If you have not read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, it is well worthwhile as a guide to hearing your child's anger and helping him through it without feeling terrible about yourself. It might help you figure out how to explore this idea of being "mismatched" so that you can understand the feelings behind it and help him work through them.

Good luck!

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#3 of 7 Old 01-27-2016, 02:21 PM
 
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I understand your situation and it's hard to tell you definitively what to do.

I have an 8 y/o step daughter who's bio-mom has been completely out of the picture since 2013 (and between 2008 - 2013 it was a once a year phone call or 1 hour long visit forced by bio-mom's mom). SD8 does well in school, plays soccer, has friends and is outwardly happy and surrounded by loving people. Her dad has always put her first and stepped up to full time single dad when bio-mom dumped SD8 in his lap when he got out of military service when she was 1 year old and removed herself from SD8's life. I have been in the picture for 2.5 years. She calls me mom, asks for hugs and kisses every night and tells me every day when I drop her off at school that she loves me and we blow kisses to each other as she runs to the playground. Dad's mom lives 5 minutes away and we visit often and have monthly family meals with my family (who she calls grandma and grandpa).

Before I was in the picture, dad enlisted his mom's help to watch her and did everything he could to spend as much time with her as possible (working part time, taking her to movies on the matinee days, going to school functions and volunteering to chaperone) and even though he works full time now, he always does his best to be involved with her life.

We decided to put her in counseling about 10 months ago because she stopped eating an appropriate amount of food (usually between 300 - 700 calories a day, almost always forced). When we asked why she wasn't eating, she would say she didn't know. She would play with her barbies and enact these scenes about barbie having a daughter then leaving her. We had numerous sit down talks with her (not yelling or demanding, just sitting on the couch or in her room casually talking) about how she feels and she often would say 'sad' and 'nervous'. She would bring home worksheets from school where they asked her to describe how full of different emotions she was and she colored her person in with 3 colors. Blue, red and purple. Blue labelled "Sad", Red "Mad" and purple "Scared".

The counselor explained that at this age, she might not understand her feelings or be able to accurately explain herself because feelings just happen and are not well correlated to anything she can understand. We never talk bad about her bio-mom and do our best to always be positive and supportive of SD8. We didn't mix words about what the counseling was (never called it worry-doctor or any other thing, just explained plainly what it was and what it was for). At first, she played dumb with the counselor and baby talked, reverting to a comfortable space to interact with someone like the counselor but after about 6 months, she started to get more involved.

Today, she eats normally and constantly tells me how "today was such a good day!" and "I felt REALLY happy with myself today!". She does still have her bad days, sometimes bad weeks, but the counseling has really made a difference in her happiness level and, yes, I was skeptical at first about how well it would work. During the first 6 month period, she started having fears of 'choking on food' and other little things that she would use as excuses not to eat and I was sure we'd have to put her on a feeding tube (she was already underweight for her height and age). I watched her lose all of her energy and look so sad and lethargic. I was scared. But we stuck with the counseling and it did turn around.

So, you have to make the decision for what's best in your situation but for my SD8 it really did and does help her process through those internal emotions that she might not feel comfortable with but can't do anything about.


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#4 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 06:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to both of you for your insights. Sometimes it's an easy call - outward expressions are loud signals. But when it's mainly an inner turmoil - especially at 10 - it's harder to know whether to wait and see or take action.

I've made an appointment to see someone together - she specializes in kids. I'm going to explain to him that I've really *heard* him when he expresses concern that we don't have a good relationship and since I'm new at being a mom, too, I want to learn more about, and get better at, having a great relationship with him. And that a 3rd person who knows more than I do would be valuable to talk to.

So it's less of "therapy for him" and more a "moderator/educator for us."

She's absolutely rooted in seeing kids primarily which was important for me because he really needs to connect to someone who is invested in his feelings/thoughts/etc. So far, that's only been me. And it's too hard for him that I'm his entire emotional world. But she agrees that we start with the both of us.

Thanks again - and if anyone else has thoughts I'd love to hear.
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#5 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 08:29 PM
 
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I'm a single mom and I put my son in some therapy last winter. He was 7 then. He was really resistant to it at first but soon realized it was a blast. It was play therapy. I was thinking about it again but I just feel like it was another fun guy in and out of his life and it helped through a tough time but when it was over what did we gain.
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#6 of 7 Old 02-03-2016, 12:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shani Richardson View Post
So it's less of "therapy for him" and more a "moderator/educator for us."
I'm interested to see how it goes for him and what kind of process he goes through with this approach. I hope everything works out for the better for both him and you and some relief can be found hand in hand with happiness.


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#7 of 7 Old 02-04-2016, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It's going to be interesting for me too!

This is a guy who goes into my bookshelf and reads "parenting manuals" (including How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen!) and then tells me he knows my "tricks"!

I kind of think he'll like the process as long as the person is not condescending. And from my initial phone call with her I'm hopeful.

Thanks for giving me an outlet and some good stuff to think about.
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