Parental Role in Therapy to Manage Kid’s Emotions

Child behaviour Therapy helps kids experiencing anxiety, fear, grief, or rage. While, in all likelihood, every child will go through these emotions, some kids will have it harder than others. Some kids’ sensations will be too intense to handle on their own. When such kids enter STEM education, coding for kids or robotics for kids, they would need a helping hand to navigate through the difficulties in the STEM field.

A substantial percentage of these kids will have several disorders, many meeting the criteria for anxiety disorders, depressive episodes, or behavioural disorders. It will adversely affect their performance in elementary school and high school

Working with Parents

Working with kids also involves working with parents and families, as children are embedded in families. Therefore parents too can play an essential role in therapy.

One aspect of therapy deals with involving parents actively in therapy work with children. Another part deals with working directly with parents and advising them about interacting with and supporting children to improve child outcomes.

To get the best out of therapy, certain factors or assumptions that will determine the outcome should be considered:

1. With the information, abilities, and resources at their disposal at the time, the parent is doing the best they can to bring up their child.

2. When parents seek counselling, they struggle with self-doubt, guilt, or even a sense of failure in parenting. Professionals may easily make parents feel evaluated or condemned.

3. Parents need to be honest about their own emotions. They may feel anxious or annoyed in trying circumstances with their kids.

Role of Parents

Parents have a crucial role in teaching kids how to control their emotions. Their effectiveness in therapy will also depend on how they respond to the kid’s emotions.

They give youngsters examples of how to respond to emotions—both their own and others—by modelling them daily. Some parents emphasise their child’s outward behaviour and gain support in identifying the emotions driving that behaviour.

For example, a child with anxiety issues may display aggressive or defiant behaviour.

How well the parents are attuned to the child’s needs will depend on the parent-child attachment. Therapy focuses on making parents responsive to the child’s safety, comfort, and physical care needs.

Parental Support Strategies

One way of supporting parents is the emotion coaching concept when their children are experiencing extreme feelings. Identifying and labelling the child’s emotions is crucial to this method. It involves demonstrating empathy and acceptance for a child’s sentiments and helping the youngster comprehend and control those feelings before engaging in real world problem-solving.

Labelling, a strategy also referred to as name it to tame it, is as simple as the parent expressing the child’s feelings in words. For instance, in “you feel angry/worried because….”

By labelling the child’s emotions, parents can feel encouraged to acknowledge and validate their child’s feelings. It sends out a message that all emotions are okay, children can cope with them, and parents can support them.

Research has supported the idea that if parents use emotion coaching, such as emotion labelling and exploration, it is likely to help improve the child’s emotional and social competence and conduct.

Parents sometimes find it difficult to discipline their children to support the child’s emotions. In such a situation, it’s essential to differentiate between supporting the act of punishing so that the child doesn’t misunderstand that feelings are wrong or unacceptable.

It is about providing kids with a learning environment in which they understand that it’s okay to feel angry but not alright to hit someone. It’s telling the kid that it would be okay to feel nervous about going to school, but the kid still needs to go.

Similarly, parents must also be aware of a child’s development stage to ensure the expectations are age appropriate and normalising a child’s behaviour and emotional responses.

Family Sessions

Some therapy sessions can involve parents and kids attending together with the therapist. It’s a great way to know how family members relate to each other. These sessions also allow the members to understand each other’s perspectives.
However, they are challenging as the family’s problems can play out during the session. The parents may tend to be too critical of their children, and children may be out of control, making it very difficult to hold any meaningful group activity as part of the therapy.

An instrumental element in family sessions is that it helps identify behaviour patterns among the family members and discover the underlying cause. To identify them, parents are sometimes counselled in isolation without their children.
Another feature of family sessions is that it gives everyone a voice, and no one would go unheard. They can be conducted either in the beginning, midway or towards the end of the therapy. A family session in the front lends proper direction for later on.

On the other hand, a session midway may help to course correct in the middle and provide a better way to move forward with the therapy.

A family session at the end can help the family to reflect on the therapy and the progress made, as well as look for any future challenges that might crop up and strategies needed to address them.

Are Parents Really Needed

The research on involving parents in therapy is limited. Although there is some consensus on the importance of involving parents in treatment, the scale of involvement may differ from therapy to treatment.

While child behaviour therapy has been effective even without parents’ involvement, studies indicate that parent involvement can positively benefit to sustain the treatment gains.

Some research also indicates that the involvement of parents is not related to child outcomes. However, the results can get affected because of the overemphasis on child measures and ignoring factors such as a change in parenting practices and family functioning.

Most of the activities in the therapy are designed to be playful, requiring parents to be an active part of the process. It is due to the recognition of the importance of play for children. This approach can be adopted for STEM learning in science, technology, engineering and, mathematics, robotics classes for kids.

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