Many parents come to my office because their child is struggling in one of two typical ways: either she is wild, oppositional and (according to the parents or the school) "incorrigible,” or he might be anxious, clingy and overly dependent. In many of these instances, the challenging behaviors are a response to well-meaning but sometimes misguided efforts on their parents' part. I work with parents first to improve understanding of and communication with their child, and then to develop their authoritative yet supportive role in addressing their child’s difficulties.
Raising children is a remarkably challenging job. Parents today often feel anxious and confused about how to strike the balance between their role as loving caregivers and disciplinarians. They also have less support from extended family, religious institutions and cultural traditions than their own parents had. Therapy can help parents develop a clear plan to supports the goal of raising responsible, caring and resilient children. The boundaries parents set provide structure and a sense of safety to children and they help children develop critical traits like frustration tolerance and flexibility. Yet children also require parents who accept and respect their feelings and needs. Children tend to thrive when parents support them in understanding and managing strong emotions.
In my direct work with children I combine play therapy with other psychotherapeutic approaches. Young children in particular express worries, beliefs and difficult emotions more readily through play than direct talk as they have yet to develop the capacity for extensive self-reflection or abstract reasoning. By following and heightening play themes,
With older children and adolescents, my first goal is to meet them where they. I may take some time to learn about their favorite video games, music and tv shows to put them at ease and foster a connection. From there, they can begin to relax and share concerns and difficulties. Because adolescents are seeking autonomy and sorting out identity issues, it is critical that they first feel that I am not pressuring them to meet the expectations of their parents, teachers, or other authority figures.
Depending on the presenting issues, I work with parents and children to:
provide a supportive and safe environment for the child to express feelings, heal from traumatic experiences, improve problem-solving and communication skills, and support new ways of managing impulses and difficulties
design an effective behavioral plan for increasing a child’s positive behaviors and decreasing defiance and tantrums
improve parents’ understanding of their child’s development
create an atmosphere in which both parents and children feel respected and understood
- -develop a clear and consistent approach to discipline
explore, when indicated, the impact of parents’ own childhood struggles as it affects their capacity to parent effectively
strengthen the marital relationship in order to provide a model for healthy communication and conflict management
Other common concerns that bring parents to my office include childhood depression, anxiety, chronic illness, adjustment to loss or divorce, and low self-esteem. Following an assessment, I will determine whether to work exclusively with the parents or directly with the child while consulting with the parents at regular intervals.
Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky
Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman et al
Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
Parenting from the Inside Out By Dan Siegel