How parents can speed up and simplify the work of a psychologist with their child — says child psychologist Victoria Melikhova.
If an adult seeks help from a psychologist, they work on the problem together. If a child needs help, then in addition to a specialist and a small client, both adults — mom and dad-are recommended to participate in psychological work. And here’s why..
1 The parent gives the psychologist information about the child’s world
Every psychologist starts by collecting information. To objectively assess the situation, it is important for him to hear both the child and the parents.
An important part of the child’s world is the image and behavior of his parents. Up to a certain age, he looks at them exclusively and is equal to them. The age of the parents, their professional activity and daily routine, their character traits, and their relationships with each other make it possible to imagine the situation in which the child finds himself every day. The more detailed the story, the better.
An important part of the child’s world is the image and behavior of his parents. Up to a certain age, he looks at them exclusively and is equal to them.
2 It is important for the psychologist to understand the behavior of both parents, their relationship with each other
The child does not compare parents, by default, he is not able to appreciate and love one more than the other. There is a father and there is a mother — they are equally important and both strongly influence the child.
When both parents are present at the consultation, the psychologist can see contradictions and difficulties in their relationship, even if they do not talk about it themselves. They can interrupt each other, find out the relationship, disagree in their assessments of the child’s behavior and development. One parent may think that the child has serious problems; the other may be sure that the child is fine, just lazy — and you need to scare or punish him properly. As a result, the child is in constant tension, as if between mom and dad.
If the father does not take part in the upbringing, the psychologist will not see him at the consultation. Mom can devalue such a father, put him in a negative light. But for a child, both parents are important, and this attitude of the mother can cause him difficult experiences. As a result, both the mother and the child will still have to work with the father, or rather his image.
3 The psychologist will most likely suggest that both the child and the parent change their behavior
Psychologists say: “The child is a symptom of the parents.” This means that the behavior and experiences of parents can strongly influence the child, and for successful work with a psychologist, these things need to be understood and worked out. Let’s look at some examples.
The child expresses negative parental feelings. Often parents say that their children do not know anything about their quarrels with each other and other relatives. But this does not mean that the child does not feel anything. A tense atmosphere is in the air and is certainly captured by the child. Mom actively suppresses anger and irritation, but the child fights every day in kindergarten and offends others. “And where did he get it from?”, — parents are perplexed. “After all, it is not customary for us to swear or shout.” But it turns out that it is also not customary for them to just talk, talk about their feelings, or express them in any way. The child catches the parents ‘ unspoken anger and helps them express it as best they can.
The child catches the parents ‘ unspoken anger and helps them express it as best they can.
The child grows up with a sense of understatement, a family secret. A child — even the smallest — has an unconscious that contains information about his family, parents, ancestors, and unborn siblings. The child is not told about the death of relatives, that he was adopted, that there were two unborn children in the family before him.
I would look at it from the other side: it is difficult for adults to talk to children about such topics. They don’t know how to choose the right words, and most importantly, how to deal with their feelings that will arise in this difficult conversation.
However, the child unconsciously knows and feels everything. The colossal tension that these topics cause, the child has to keep to himself — after all, it is impossible to talk about it. This is exactly the message that parents give. And if you can’t, then it’s something terrible, unbearable. Something that even Mom and Dad can’t handle. So the child will keep the secret, while protecting his parents from unbearable feelings, thereby feeling more and more tense.
A child who once had another family, even if unconsciously remembers and knows the history of his own family. But they tell him that he was born into a family of adoptive parents, that he had no one else. Yes, it’s great that he is accepted as a native. But what happens to the child? He has his own experience, his own memory. Adults tell him their own story. The child learns not to trust his feelings, his memory, his feelings. The child grows up with the message “everything I see and feel is not true.” He loses touch with reality, looks back at the opinions of others, but does not trust himself, which can lead to a variety of consequences.
To help the psychologist during therapy, it is important to tell the child about his real parents, unborn siblings, and deceased relatives. The child may not understand all the subtleties due to his age, but he will feel the intonation, the lifted ban on talking and even “thinking” on such topics, which will significantly reduce tension and increase his confidence in his parents.
The child may not understand all the subtleties due to his age, but he will feel the intonation, the lifted ban on talking and even “thinking” on such topics.
The child carries the burden of parental expectations. The attitude of parents to the child is of great importance. Whether they see him as a person or load him with their own ideas, expectations and fantasies. Just one question — “What will the child be like when he grows up?” – is enough to understand: do parents listen to the child, his needs, abilities, or did they paint him all his life themselves. Compare:
“He is persistent, likes to get his own way. Probably will be purposeful. Likes to draw, and is likely to be creative. But he is kind and affectionate, maybe he will help people.”
“He will be a doctor. Just like Dad. And like a grandfather. Everyone in our family was a doctor.”
“He’s already the spitting image of Dad. He will be just as absent-minded and irresponsible.”
In the first case, the needs and interests of the child are seen. Mom assumes, dreams about what her child can be. In the second — he was already predestined to be a doctor. And God forbid, he will take up the violin-betray the whole family. In the third case, the child is not seen at all. He is already perceived as a father, instead of a father.
The child adopts the parent’s communication and behavior model. The child also catches the peculiarities of parents ‘ behavior, the ability to open up, trust people, and fantasize. It was interesting to talk at the first meeting with my mother and feel her closeness, the difficulty of talking about yourself, about your negative feelings, to feel the same at a meeting with a teenager. It feels like the scenery has just changed, the situation, the feelings remain the same.
Often parents complain about the child’s bad behavior, lack of respect for their elders, although they themselves demand unquestioning obedience, “because I said so”, “too young to reason yet”. It is not surprising that the child will stand on his own to the bone, because his mother is an example for him.
4 If the parent feels guilty about the child’s behavior, it is worth discussing with a psychologist
An improvement in a child can cause parents to have a difficult feeling that the specialist has coped, but they have not. This means that they are bad and incompetent parents. It gets to the point that some parents stop taking their child to a specialist to get rid of these feelings. However, then the child is deprived of the opportunity to receive the help of a psychologist.
It is important to understand that parents felt the difficulty and turned to a specialist. They are great fellows. Noticing a problem and starting to work with it is a huge step.
Parents felt the difficulty and turned to a specialist. They are great fellows. Noticing a problem and starting to work with it is a huge step.
You need to work with parental guilt and speak it out at parent meetings. The best results are achieved by parents who are willing to listen, feel, and speak openly.
If parents cannot cope with these feelings during sessions with their child, they are encouraged to work with a specialist in person.
5 The parent is responsible for the regularity and continuity of classes
One of the most important functions of a parent is to guarantee stable and regular work with a specialist. It is he who brings the child to the session, which requires a lot of effort. Pack up, take it away, wait, pick it up. And the most important thing is to make sure that another person works with the child, who becomes important to them, who does not just work with bad behavior, but penetrates into their family. This is a lot of work, because in the course of work it is necessary to pull out and work out difficult topics and feelings for the family.
The responsibility of the specialist is to provide space and time for working with the child and family, observe time limits, apply knowledge and skills during work, visit supervisors and personal psychotherapy.
It is the responsibility of parents to bring their child to sessions, to be prepared for temporary exacerbations of symptoms and the emergence of complex feelings on both.
6 The psychologist works in sessions, and the parent does “homework”
Outside of the session, the parent is left alone with the child. And he should be prepared for the fact that the child’s behavior will change gradually or even get worse for a while.
For example, the family has a ban on anger. The psychologist will formulate the problem in this way, because without expressing anger in any way, it is difficult to teach the child a constructive expression of feelings. In the course of classes, the child begins to show a forbidden feeling at home, the parents are at a loss — it only got worse. The task of the psychologist is to explain to them that this is an intermediate stage. Just like during surgery, we “open” the sore spots, but in order to “heal” them later. Parents will have to endure this crisis, the transition.
The whole family system can be based on the child’s behavior. For example, the child vents out the anger that the parents are saving up. Or it embodies the ideas of parents about how bright and rich the life of a successful person should be. When the child begins to understand himself, feel his interests and needs, and express his feelings — the entire family system will have to be rebuilt. What to do about it is the responsibility of parents.
In conclusion, I would like to support my parents. They do what they know how, based on their own experience. Of course, normally they do not wish the child harm, they want to do the best. And if at some point they did something wrong, it was because they couldn’t, didn’t know how else to do it.
It is on the parents that the psychologist also relies in working with the child. They are allies, partners, and helpers. To help a psychologist, you need a strong union and cooperation of parents with a specialist, this will be the key to high-quality work with the child.