This is one of my favorite types of therapy to be a part of: helping parents and kids get on the same page. We spend so much time with them and their cuteness while they're little and then they reach adolescence and they start pulling away. It can feel surreal and a little heartbreaking sometimes.
No longer are we their best person who they want to come to for reassurance or a feeling of security - but we are "other" and they need to see how far they can push us away while still being a part of things. Not all kids. But many of them.
Here's the thing: it's not personal.
I mean, in some aspects it might be personal - you tend to tease them in front of their friends and they just don't want to be embarrassed on purpose anymore - but youth don't always know how to communicate that and still maintain their relationship. They're new to this whole autonomny thing. They don't know how to do it well.
Here's where I come in within the therapeutic process.
I meet with parent and child together. We get on the same page and determine who my client is. Usually it's the child/teen. We figure out our goals - which since my client is the youth the goals are directed toward the youth's desires: learn how to talk so my parents will listen, become more independant, get along better with my friends, etc. I ask the youth if it's okay if their parent can join us every three or four (or five) sessions so they can practice what we learn in session with someone who's safe and who would benefit from practicing with them.
Then we start sessions. I get to know your teen/youth. We talk about their friends, their parents and siblings. We talk about what they want out of life or out of the weekend. Through the casual conversation I pick up on various things in their story and ask more about it (why did you make that choice? What did that make you think about yourself or about them? How did you cope?) and then I ask what would happen if they tried it this other way? Would the people around them respond differently if they said or did things from a different perspective? If they would have taken a diffferent perspective would they have made different choices?
It's all part of a conversation that doesn't feel so clinical. It's not like tv where we sit across from each otheer and I write on a pad of paper, psychoanalyzing them. We go for walks or play Yahtzee. We might stay on the sofa/chair but curl up our legs and chat like friends would. The teen/youth leaves feeling like she just talked to an aunt and not some professional lady who's going to tell her all the things she did wrong.
Then, during the session where parent comes in I wear my professional hat and help a dialogue take place. My goal in that dialogue is two-fold: to focus on how the two people are communicating and to improve the relationship between them. The teen's goal is usually to focus on the content of the conversation (Am I allowed to have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Can I stay the night at friends' houses, etc).
The following session the teen/youth and I debrief about what went well and what could be improved upon. We work on what they can do differently (because you can't change the people around you, you can only change yourself).
And then the cycle begins again - and hopefully with the next parent session the teen has another set of tools in their toolbelt and the relationship continues to evolve. It's not a quick fix, but it's moving in the right direction toward healthy communication and relationship as your kiddo goes from child to teen to adult.
Jessica Wilkerson, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #104464
Jessica works in Chico California helping individual adults and teens, couples, and families. Whenever she's in session she's always thinking about the relationships this person has and how those relationships influence them and how they're influencing the relationships. She's looking for the dance and looking to help her client navigate the ways they contribute to relationships and how they can change the song to one that's a little happier.
To contact her for an appointment send her an email at email@example.com or call/text (530) 994-5114.