Therapy for parents can be as vital as couples or individual therapy for quality of life, both for parents and their children. Here are a few reasons why.
Healthy Parents Raise Healthy Children
First, parents can help themselves with improved mental health. For some parents, this might not seem to be a priority. Why would you want to focus on your own well-being when you’re putting all of your time into raising your children? In reality, parenting takes a toll on many people’s mental health. It’s normal to get frustrated, feel lost, and even go through an occasional mental health crisis.
When you’re not mentally healthy, your struggles can seep into your behavior and how you interact with your family. This isn’t your fault, but it is avoidable. So by taking care of yourself, you’ll be better at taking care of your family.
If you attend parent therapy with your partner, you’re likely to improve your own relationship. Parenting puts a real strain on relationships. It’s easy to feel frustrated and at odds with the other person, which isn’t conducive to raising a healthy child. Therapy for parents can help you resolve parenting-related issues that one or both of you have been experiencing. Your individual differences in parenting philosophy can be challenging to reconcile. So can differences in the behaviors you want to teach them.
Almost all parents would agree that they should be on the same page with their children regarding rules, routines, and the messages they get. Yet putting this into practice can be challenging. For example, children and teens often try to get what they want by going to one parent over the other. In turn, how each parent responds can become a ‘hot topic’ in the relationship. It’s not unusual, for example, for one parent to feel that they have been stuck in the role of playing the ‘bad cop.’ Yet, the other partner might be seen as the ‘good time’ parent, the one a child might view as more of a friend than a parental figure.
By opening up dialogue between parents and airing both differences and values, parents can learn how to arrive at solutions they are both on board with, presenting a unified front with their children. In turn, this can go a long way towards diffusing tension and getting to the source of repeating arguments.
Setting a Good Example
A solid and caring relationship between parents sets a good example. Children learn how to have healthy relationships from the model that their parents provide. Children, especially young ones, tend to assume that whatever is happening at home is like other homes. So when they see tension, fighting, or distance, that too can appear ‘normal.’ It is the same with how feelings are expressed or not allowed to be expressed at home.
The level of safety and mutual caring and affection between parents also affects the child’s attachment style. These are the ways we’ve learned, early on, to act in relationships. We know that those with a healthier attachment are more likely to be in better relationships later on. (hyperlink 1). We take that attachment template into adult life, although there is time to grow and change. As adults, our perception of our parent’s relationship (Hyperlink 2) also influences the extent to which we can enjoy a secure, loving bond with another.
While having a good example of healthy relationships does not guarantee that your children will have similar relationships in the future, it sets them on the right track. You are doing what you can now to help set the stage for them to have a happier, more fulfilling, and stable life.
Learning healthy coping methods by going to therapy shows your children that taking care of yourself is OK and a good thing. It also demonstrates that getting help sometimes can be better than trying to do everything yourself. Going into therapy also sends the important message that taking care of mental health is as important as caring for ones’ physical well-being.
More than that, when a child sees their parents get better at relating to one another, they see that positive change is possible, even if things haven’t been good for a long time. This is a powerful, positive message to give a child to carry forward.
The skills you learn in therapy will also help you set a good example. For example, knowing how to set boundaries (hyperlink 3) will help your children feel that they are growing up in a safe, consistent environment. And when you as parents display healthy ways of coping and dealing with life’s challenges, they pick that up too. So, for better or worse, we are always teaching our children.
How parenting therapy helps
No one ever said that parenting was easy. It comes with lots of challenges that keep shifting as the children grow. Even the most well-behaved children can sometimes be frustrating, irritating, and overwhelming, so it’s normal for parents to want to vent about their struggles. Talking to a sympathetic friend can help but may not get you the best input. At best, a well-meaning friend can tell you what has worked for them, which might not be a fit for you or your children.
In therapy, it can be a relief to have a place where venting about the challenges of child-raising is normal and expected. But parents need more than that, and that’s where a skilled therapist comes in.
A therapist is, first and foremost, obligated to help ensure the safety and care of the child. Beyond that, a good therapist will listen to both parents in an unbiased way. An experienced therapist should also have a good grasp of multiple issues and skills. These include:
n Helping with communication skills between parents
n Skills to avoid disagreements from escalating
n Managing stress and frustration when they arise
n Having a safe environment for problem-solving, with professional input
n Help parents set boundaries that fit the developmental stage of the child
n Have a place to talk about and help resolve a crisis if it occurs
n Help parents learn to make joint decisions when it comes to their children
n Help maintain consistent communication with their children
n Explore and help each parent express the core values central to them in raising their child. These values represent the hope for who their child will be as an adult. Having both parents know each other’s values helps each to understand the other’s approach.
n Help to create a routine and expectations of the child that reflects both parents’ values.
Being a parent doesn’t mean that you must stop taking care of yourself and your mental health. On the contrary, therapy can help you be better equipped to meet the challenges of parenting and parenting with a partner.
At Evergreen Relationship Therapy, we are experienced in helping parents deal with the challenges of raising children. These challenges involve both the relationship with the children and the relationship of the parents to each other. Parenting young children, for example, brings new pressures on the parent’s relationship that can cause tension, conflict, and distance. While parenting a teen can involve managing demands for autonomy and dealing with parental differences involving questions relating to their child’s safety, academic performance, friends, rules, and more.
We want to help. Contact us (hyperlink 4) to book a free consultation today.