Archive for September, 2010
Should parents be friends with their children? As a therapist, I see parents all the time that make their children their “buddies” and inevitably when they bring their children in for treatment their are behavioral problems. The reason that we do NOT make our children are friends is that it is very difficult later on to enforce rules and establish boundaries. Research shows that kids/teens do better when their parents who show them affection and enforce age-appropriate limits on their children’s behavior. “Friendship” with your children also causes problems if it means for the parent/s that they are treating their child as an adult confident. This is something that we see in therapy all the time. Parents that tell their children all of their marital issues, financial worries, and personal issues. This does not mean that you are closer to your child, it actually brings about worry and anxiety in children.
First and foremost, we need to be parents to our children. This means that we treat children as individuals with minds of their own, we talk to our children about THEIR hopes and dreams, we share information at a minimum of our own personal issues so as to not distress our children, and we respect and trust each other.
The kind of friendship that I am talking about here forms a secure attachment and bond with our children while at the same time establishes that the relationship is not an equal one and their are clear cut boundaries. If we treat our children as “equals” then it is going to be really hard to get them to follow our rules and regulations.
All of this becomes even more true when our children reach adolescence. We think that now they are older that we can let them make their own decisions and choices. NO! As your child’s parent, you can offer him/her valuable advice and guidance and set up boundaries that they can use for their future.
Typically when mom, dad, or both parents bring their child/children in for counseling due to their divorce, everyone is in great turmoil. Mom and Dad are often fighting over rules in each other’s homes, who is picking up the children at what time and where, and who is right and who is wrong in all of this. Usually lawyer’s and sometimes the judge is involved if everyone is not in agreement and the detrimental part of this is that the children are greatly affected by all of the chaos that ensues when parent’s divorce.
So what is the role of the therapist when they work with children in counseling and what exactly are their goals. First of all, psychotherapists that work individually with divorcing parents need to understand what is at stake or in other words the importance of both mom and dad’s role in parenting their children. Therapists will not be looking simply at the immediate complaint of the mother or father (ie… Ashley gets away with everything over at her mom’s house or Ashley’s dad says bad things about me in front of Ashley) rather they are looking systemically at the problem. The therapist looks at the choices made by both parents and how this affects the overall dynamic in the family. The therapist will also educate the parents on what divorce looks like for the child after they get a divorce. Most children, whether the parents believe it or not, want both mom and dad in their life. The biggest value in therapy is the therapist explaining a very realistic picture of what divorce looks like for a child, the likely sources of conflict that will ensue, the loneliness that is often felt by everyone, and of course that the parents must continue to parent together. This is the value of the therapist in the life of kids of divorce and it can contribute to everyone’s well-being in the years that lie ahead for everyone involved.