If you have a child or a teen who is troubled and struggling, it’s easy to focus on them, their needs, and their diagnosis exclusively. After all, you have to manage their therapy appointments, make time to discuss treatment options with their team, and fill their prescriptions. Sometimes it can seem like your whole life revolves around your child and their treatment. However, it’s important to realize that as a parent, you have a very important part to play in your child’s recovery. Not just by calling the insurance company for the upteenth time or filling out yet another stack of paperwork.
Problems arise in a family and exist in a family system. Parents are often doing the best they can for their troubled kids, but they don’t always have the right tools and support. Working with a therapist yourself can be an important piece of your healing, as well as your kid’s. Another important piece of the puzzle is parent training.
Isn’t it strange that we go to school for years and years to qualify for our jobs, but no one offers formal training for parents-to-be? Waterford Counseling recognizes the fact that parents need support, too. We offer parent training sessions on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The goal of the sessions is to empower parents with tips and tools to help their kids succeed outside a therapeutic environment.
Small Parenting Changes Add Up, Creating Harmony at Home
Sometimes a small change can make a huge difference. For instance, instead of letting everyone go off to stare at screens, plan a family hike or even a walk around the neighborhood. Encourage kids to ride bikes or scooters around the neighborhood. Make time to take them to the park. Researchers at North Carolina State University found that kids were getting outside a lot less in the early months of the pandemic, and that had huge negative impacts on kid and teen mental health. Encouraging kids to go outside also has the side benefit of decreasing screen time. Most experts advise limiting screen time to an hour or two a day.
Another easy way to encourage your kids and create a positive family atmosphere is to praise effort rather than talent. Showing kids you see when they’re putting in a lot of effort lets them know that hard work is a good thing, not a sign of failure. You can reinforce this lesson by letting your kids see when you struggle. This means if you have a challenging work project, you can say something like, “Wow, I’m having to do a lot of research and learning to get this done. It’s not easy for me.” This shows kids that struggle is part of life. It can also help them develop more resilience themselves. Parents who don’t feel pressure to be perfect are usually happier and have more capacity themselves. Allowing for failure and struggle is actually good for the whole family. Who knew?
Kid and Teen Mental Health Improves with a Balanced Approach
Another important aspect of successful parenting is finding the balance between supporting your kids and giving them space to try new things and learn from their mistakes. This will be a little different for every child. However, if they know that you are a safe person to share their struggles, that will give them a secure foundation from which they can go out into the world.
Even if these ideas are completely new to you, you can always start making changes and repairing relationships. In fact, learning how to repair them is an important tool in the parenting toolbox.
Working Together, We Support Kid and Teen Mental Health
These are just a few examples of ideas you’ll get in our parent training sessions. It can also be very validating for parents to get to know others whose kids have similar struggles. Despite progress, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health struggles, particularly in kids and teens. Our groups are safe spaces for parents to come together, learn from and support one another, as well as get support from a non-judgmental professional.