Talking to a Professional
Talking to someone about your concerns can be overwhelming. You might feel nervous, worry they won’t understand your child or teen or your family situation or you might have had a previous experience trying to get help that didn’t work out. It’s not unusual to try more than one person, service or program to find a good match.
Before you go:
- Get the address and phone number of where you are going before you set out (online maps such as Google maps are reliable). Take your time and don’t rush to get there – arriving calm will help. You can also ask by phone about transportation issues such as bus routes or parking directions to make it easier.
- Be aware that help for kids and teens usually involves families as well. You may be asked to attend the first appointment, and other appointments along the way. The family may also be asked to participate in a change process, as concerns usually affect more than just one member of a family.
- Write down your concerns before you share them. This can help you present the most important information and stay on track.
- Remind yourself that every family has challenges and seeking help is commonplace.
During your discussion:
- Feel free to ask questions about the process. For example: What is the usual length of an appointment? Who will be present? What are the rules about confidentiality? What will your involvement be? Write down these and any other questions you may have.
- Ask for the help of others who are involved in your child’s or teen’s life, such as other family members. Ask for their encouragement and support of your effort to get help for your family and your child or teen.
Support your child or teen’s appointments
- Before the first appointment, talk to your child or teen about the process. Share what you know about the helper and any other details such as where you are going, how long it may take and whether anyone else will be present.
- Reassure your child or teen that there is no blame for their concerns. Life presents challenges and all families struggle at times along the way.
- If possible, reassure your child that any other family concerns are not due to their struggles. Children and teens often feel that their difficulties are causing all the challenges a family may have, such as marital problems. In truth, these concerns may be part of the picture, but usually there are other factors involved as well. Reassuring them that it isn’t their fault may relieve some of their stress.
- Reassure your child or teen that the appointment or discussion (if over the phone) is meant to help them.
- You can also tell them that you are seeking help, too –ways to help your child or teen cope and ways to be supportive during their struggles. It may also help to let them know you are open to learning new ways of being a family, too.
- Be a good role model – look after your own health and communicate calmly and openly.
- Be open to ways in which you can support your child’s or teen’s growth and development.
Along the way:
- Remind your child or teen that help takes time to happen, to process and to take effect.
- Try not to expect immediate changes in anyone. Often it takes time to make progress, to learn to better communicate or learn new coping skills.
- Try to be patient with yourself, with your child or teen and with the process in general.
- Keep communication open with the helping professional. If things are not going well, let them know. Be open to hearing about ways to help.
- Make note of positive developments, even if they seem small. Every bit of encouragement can be helpful and can keep things going in a good direction.
Dealing with issues during the helping process
- Listen to the child or teen’s concerns calmly, without passing judgement on the situation. Avoid taking the “side” of either your child/teen or the helping professional.
- Express empathy – note that going for help can be challenging, especially when asked to try out new coping methods or new ways of looking at situations. Being supportive can be very helpful.
- Encourage patience.
- Try to encourage your child or teen to find a different way to express themselves – writing thoughts down or using artwork for self-expression can help communicate issues.
- Ask if you can go together and help share the concerns.
- Take a list of your questions and concerns to the appointment.
- Ask for the professional’s help in making the process flow smoothly.
Check out the Links and Resources section for further information.