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Tracy was interviewed by Atlanta Parent Magazine, giving you a better way to motivate your child!

Follow the link to read the article.
https://www.atlantaparent.com/parenting-without-rewards-an…/

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By:  Andrew McConaghie, LCSW

Divorce happens. We know that around half of marriages end in divorce, which means about half of husbands and wives will personally experience the divorce process at some point in their lives. Divorce is not fun; in fact, it is somewhat like a death, filled with a lot of intense and unpleasant emotions. Divorce is almost always sad but, unfortunately, it often also becomes destructive. As mental health advocates, if people are getting a divorce, we are much more in favor of facilitating and working through a sad divorce rather than a destructive one. In the following article, we give divorce advice on what we believe to be the healthiest way to divorce.

When it comes down to it, a couple transitioning from a married relationship to a divorce relationship is a legal transaction. A plan for money and a plan for the children are two main legal changes that have to be made in this transition.

Traditionally, each person hires an attorney and those attorneys facilitate the development of a new relationship contract called the divorce decree. The problem with this way of divorcing is the inherent conflict of interest embedded in the process. In other words, the more contentious and less agreeable the couple, the more the attorneys will have to work and the more they will get paid. Even divorce mediation, which involves a mediator that attempts to facilitate the process, will include each person having their own attorney trying to get their client everything they can. It is very important to note that many divorce attorneys are incredible and ethical people. We personally know and refer to many of them who practice in a way that helps people through this difficult divorce process. In addition, attorneys are a must for the final legal steps of a divorce. However, we argue that an attorney-led divorce creates this conflict of interest and potentially will increase negative experiences between the couple.

As collaborative divorce professionals for many years, we have witnessed a wide range of divorce experiences. Some have been constructive, collaborative and caring. Others have been extremely destructive with HUGE emotional and financial costs throughout and following the divorce. We have spent our career helping people develop and live the healthiest and happiest lives possible and hope to encourage this even when they are faced with the process of divorcing their mate.

Because of this, we advocate a new and healthier way to divorce. This way involves a mental health professional who is a parenting plan expert and an independent financial professional who specializes in divorce financial agreements. A parenting plan is the part of the divorce contract that addresses everything about the children other than the finances. It will specify which parent will be with the children on any given day or holiday throughout the year. It will also address issues such as which parent will have final say in certain areas of the child’s life such as health or education. Additionally, agreements about how the parents will communicate about the children and how and when the parents will introduce any significant others to the children will be addressed in this document. The parents will work with the parenting plan expert to develop this plan together. The parenting plan expert will help facilitate communication between the parents so each parent feels that their perspectives, concerns, and wishes are addressed.
The goal is for both parents to feel satisfied with the parenting plan so that they do not start their divorced lives full of resentment and reluctance to follow the plan.

Once the parenting plan is finalized, the parents meet with the financial consultant. We recommend completing the parenting plan first in order to focus on one area at a time, to separate the time with the children and the finances, and to begin with what is more important, i.e., the health and well being of the children. The financial consultant will work with the couple to address division of marital assets, child support, and alimony. Tax and other financial considerations will be addressed through this process as well.

When the parenting plan and the financial agreement are completed, at least one attorney should look over these agreements to make sure everything is addressed in a legal way and to file the documents. Sometimes each person would like their own independent attorney to look over the documents on their behalf. However, when hiring an attorney (or attorneys) for this part of the process, we highly recommend using an attorney who has a collaborative and cooperative reputation, rather than a litigious reputation. Once a couple has come this far in the process, you don’t want a litigious attorney to look at your documents and throw fire on them by saying things like, “I can’t believe you agreed to this!” or “You should have received more time with the kids or more money and I can get you more!”

The other reasons to use this more collaborative approach are that counselors who are parenting plan experts and financial professionals who are financial divorce experts are specialists in the areas of communication, child development, and mediation, as well as the laws around divorce financial agreements and taxes. Attorneys have generally studied and learned about parenting plans and divorce finances, but their specialty is the law.

Not every couple will be able to or willing to use this more cooperative approach, but we hope and suggest most couples at least try. The traditional, litigation process is always available if this process doesn’t work but it’s difficult to become more cooperative and collaborative once the litigation process has started. The reality is that with a healthy divorce, children can continue to thrive and adults can move on to happier lives. In our experience, this respectful, solution-oriented divorce process prevents painful casualties of divorce: scarred children and years of stress and anger for the adults.

If you are facing a divorce and want to proceed in the most efficient and healthy way possible, call us at 770-645-8933. Andrew or Tracy will meet with you to consult on your specific situation and create a plan to help you and your family.

Andrew McConaghie, LCSW
Tracy McConaghie, LCSW

Andrew and Tracy McConaghie are collaboratively trained parenting plan experts and the owners of McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta, GA since 2000. Their practice is focused on helping children, adults, couples and families grow and become as healthy as possible. Andrew specializes in couples counseling (including divorce counseling) and Tracy specializes in child and family therapy. To find out more information, please go to mcconaghiecounseling.com or call 770-645-8933.

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By: Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

1. Specific, sincere positive acknowledgment is far more effective than punishment strategies. Negative reinforcement or punishment works short term at best, but does not teach the child what to do or how to improve the problem. Comments should focus on what the child did right and exactly what they did. For example, rather than “you did not disrupt the class”, state exactly what desired behavior occurred.

Vary positive comments – the same thing said over and over can lose its value.
Be sincere- children know when you do not really mean or believe what you say.

2. Selectively ignore some inappropriate behavior. Every single misbehavior does not have to be addressed, and when it is it results in a great deal of discouragement in children. Remember, children do better when they feel better and worse when they feel worse.

3. Set up secret signals between you and the child. This is a way of redirecting that is supportive and does not result in the embarrassment that frequent calling out in class does. Plan with the child what the signal will be and what it means.

4. Plan seating and line arrangements carefully to reduce problems.

5. Spend time talking with the child about things other than school – one of the best predictors of how well a child does in school is if they believe their teacher likes them.

6. Provide calming manipulative such as play dough, stress balls, etc. These provide needed sensory input that can increase attention, and they keep hands busy.

7. Allow for breaks – ask the child frequently to run errands or do jobs in the classroom. This not only provides needed breaks, but also increases the sense of capability and contribution to the classroom.

8. Children can not thrive without a physical break during the day, and this is particularly true for children with ADHD or other challenges. Do not remove recess time for misbehavior or unfinished work. If your school does not provide a good dose of recess in the middle of the day, create an activity time in your classroom – sit ups, push ups against the wall, stretches and yoga poses that are strenuous yet quiet, etc. Productivity will increase even though you take time for this.

9. Use non-verbal cues. For example, a firm hand on the shoulder, pointing to what needs to be done without talking, making eye contact.

10. Plan a routine for transitions. Help the child make a cue card with the steps for packing up and lining up, for example, and point to it on his or her desk when it is time for this step. Stay near the child during these transitions when possible to give coaching and reminders.

tracy

Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.

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By: Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

In my parenting classes, I often use this disclaimer when sharing a new parenting tool: “this is not a magic trick.” I say this to remind parents that children are not robots; we can not follow an exact formula and get an exact result because humans and situations are unpredictable and complex. However, I sometimes feel magic is an appropriate adjective for the tool of empathy.

Empathy means feeling with. When we sympathize with someone, we feel bad for them, but from a distance. When we empathize, we are able to be truly connected with them and feel with them. Using empathy transforms relationships, reduces tension and improves behavior. It is also one of the most effective discipline tools.

Imagine coming home from a very difficult day and venting to your spouse or partner about how terrible it was. You might say something like “you can not even imagine how terrible work was today. The demands on me are so unreasonable and I am sick of it. I feel like quitting. I am so over the horrible treatment I am receiving from my boss!” What do you want from your partner? What would help you the most? How about if they said this: “You need to get a hold of yourself! I don’t want to hear you talk like that about work – we need that income! Maybe if you had a better attitude things would not be going so bad for you. Why don’t you just talk to your boss about your work load? Come on, calm down!” You can probably feel your stress rising just reading this example. You most certainly would not respond to those kind of comments by thanking them for helping you and then enjoying your renewed positive attitude about work. In fact, you would feel worse and likely get even louder and more negative about your job.

Empathy is not usually thought of as a discipline tool. To be honest, it is often the last thing we are thinking of when our children are misbehaving. When children are refusing to do their homework, having a meltdown over a minor issue, or telling us they hate us for our stupid rules, our heart is not really going out to them. We are mad, hurt, and afraid. Sometimes we even feel like getting them back. Even if we are not angry about something our children are saying or doing, we might respond to their complaints and stress by explaining to them they do not need to feel that way or telling them to stop.

Child: I hate homework I am not going to do it!
Parent: Well get used to it, you are in 3rd grade now and you are most definitely going to do it.

Child: All my friends were mean to me today.
Parent: Nonsense! I saw you talking with Sarah at carpool.

Child: I hate these stupid rules!
Parent: We do not talk like that in this house!

Child: This is so unfair! I am in the middle of my show and I want to keep watching TV!
Parent: I don’t want to hear your complaints! Just cooperate for once and go brush your teeth!

If these examples sound all too familiar, don’t worry: you are not alone. These are very common responses from parents. We are all tired and trying to do the best we can with the very intense and emotional job of parenting. Most of the responses above are well intended attempts to help children see reality or to get to them to do what they need to do. The problem is, they do neither. No child has responded to lectures or demands with : “good point mom, I think I will get started on my homework right away” or ” I see what you mean, I really do have a lot of great friends.” On the contrary, they push back, protest, or try even harder to convince you of their point of view.

Theresa Wiseman, an empathy researcher, explains that the elements of empathy are: staying out of judgment, perspective taking, and expressing understanding. Staying out of judgment means we do not consider whether or not what our child feels is “right.” We do not judge their perspective. Perspective taking means putting ourselves into our child’s shoes. The skills of getting into our child’s world opens doors to creative and loving parenting. We can practice this by remembering our own childhood experience and even by imagining what we would feel like in the same situation as an adult (as we did previously when we imagined telling our partner about a bad day at work.) Finally, expressing understanding means finding something in our child’s experience we can join with and validate. This does not mean approving of their language or choices, but it does mean looking behind their less mature attempts to express themselves to the truth in their reality.

Here are some empathy responses:

Child: I hate homework and I’m not going to do it!
Parent: I don’t blame you for not wanting to do your homework after that long day of school. In fact, I remember feeling the very same way sometimes when I was your age.

Child: All my friends were mean to me today.
Parent: You seem so sad about that.

Child: I hate these stupid rules!
Parent: I can see you are very angry about not being able to do what you want.

Child: This is so unfair! I am in the middle of my show and want to keep watching!
Parent: That is disappointing. I know it is one of your favorites.

Using empathy in this way does not mean changing the rules or keeping the TV on. Parents still need to follow through with what is best for their families. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline and founder of the Positive Discipline Association calls this Connect Before Correct. That is a wonderful reminder to join with our children and show understanding before move to correcting our children.

tracy

Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.

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By Tracy McConaghie, LCSW

In Part 1 of this series, we shared some tips on how to handle the initial conversation about divorce with children, emphasizing the importance of telling the truth and telling children at the right time. Once that conversation has taken place, you will need to continue to reassure your children and share information with them about what will happen over the coming weeks and months.

Allow Feelings and Questions

It is helpful to directly tell children that it is OK to be sad, angry or experience any other feelings they are having. Sharing that you are feeling sad can also be helpful as long as there is not a dramatic display of emotion. This is an opportunity to model healthy expression of feelings by sharing them and showing you are OK.

Reassure Without Sugar Coating

In addition to sharing feelings honestly, it is important to provide reassurance that everything will be OK. One of the positive predictors for a good outcome for children post-divorce is that they know their parents are doing well. Here are some examples of reassuring statements:
  • “I am sad too, but I know everything is going to be OK.”
  • “I know we have enough love in our family to get through this.”
  • “Mom/Dad and I are going to work together to make sure you have everything you need.”
In addition, emphasize that a lot is going to change, but some things will not change at all: the children will still see both of you and you will still be taking care of and loving them. If you and your spouse are still in a friendly relationship, say so. For example “even though we know it is not best for us to be married, we still care about and respect each other as friends and are going to work together as a team to take care of you.”
A few days after your first family meeting, check in with the children individually.
Although it is comforting to provide reassurance, it is not helpful to try so hard to make children feel better that you present a false positive. Examples of this include “This will be great, you get two Christmases/Hanukahs!” or “Now you get to decorate two rooms!” or “There is nothing to be sad about.” Statements like this tell children their naturally sad feelings are silly or wrong.

Provide the Information You Have About the Future

Ideally, you will have at least some general information about how life is going to be after the divorce. This can be as general as “you are going to have lots of time with each of us” to a very specific residential schedule. You may also know if one parent is going to move out, who that will be, and about how far away their new home is going to be.
Whether or not the children will change schools is also a critical piece of information for children. Share the details you have. This provides awareness that there is a plan and, even better, that you have worked together to create one you both feel good about.
It is likely you will not have all the details worked out at the time you talk with your children. Share with them that some things are still going to be decided, and the two of you are going to work together to make those decisions and you will tell them as soon as you know. Invite their input and concerns, but do not imply they will get to make the decisions themselves – that places too much pressure on them and children are not capable of making those important decisions themselves.

The Value of “I Don’t Know”

You might be concerned that your children will ask you a question you do not know the answer to, or do know the answer to but are not sure how to explain it appropriately. It’s fine to simply say “I do not know the answer to that yet, but I will work on it and talk with you about it later” or “I will need to think about that a little so I can make sure to explain it to you in the best way later.” Consult with your therapist or coach for assistance if needed.

Plan Ahead

Ideally, this conversation will happen with both parents present. If one parent has already talked with the children, call a family meeting with both present to talk further so that the children can experience a healthy message from both parents.
Have more questions about talking to your children about divorce? Click here to contact us.
In addition, both parents should play an equal role in the conversation. Sometimes one parent is much more talkative or more comfortable with emotional topics, and in those situations that parent can dominate the conversation. This inadvertently sends the message that the other parent is not involved or is not handling the change as well. Many parents find it helpful to plan in advance, making a general “script” of which parents will share which pieces of information.

Follow Up

One conversation is not enough. A few days after your first family meeting, check in with the children individually. Share with them that you know they must have a lot of thoughts, feelings and questions about the divorce and you are ready to talk about them with them.
Even if they do not want to talk about it, they are learning that you are capable of helping them and not afraid of their feelings or this change. Continue these follow up opportunities every week or two for at least a couple of months. They can happen with both parents or with just one at a time.
Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.
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By Tracy McConaghie, LCSW

Many parents dread the moment they tell their children they are getting a divorce. They fear their own emotions and the reactions they imagine their children will have. However, this conversation can be held in a healthy way that provides emotional connection and security. The following guidelines will help you prepare for this important family meeting:

Consider the Timing

While there is no exact science regarding when to tell your children about your divorce, it is important to give some thought to timing. It’s best to give children some time to process the new information with both parents present in the home. For example, two weeks before one parent moves out is a good time.
On the other hand, telling children that you will divorce, and then remaining together for months increases children’s anxiety (when is it going to happen?) and prevents them from finding closure and moving on to a secure new version of your family (maybe they changed their mind!).
If your family is in turmoil or there is a high level of conflict that the children are aware of, it is best to go ahead and have a conversation with the children even if it will be an extended time before somebody moves out. In that case, talk with the children about their awareness of the arguing or difficult times in the family. Let them know you love them, the arguments are not because of them, and you are working on what to do to make things better for the family.
If your child asks you if you are going to get a divorce, you can say that you do not know for sure yet what will happen, but you do know you are going to make sure they are loved and taken care of. Invite your children to share with you anytime they feel scared or sad while you are going through this process, and check in with them regularly about their feelings.
The reasons adults get divorced are painful and often complicated. Children are not equipped developmentally or emotionally to understand those details.

Tell the Truth

The first step is to be honest about what is happening. Tell the truth, but keep it simple: “We have something important to share with you. You have noticed that we have been going through some hard times in our family and Mom and I/Dad and I have not been getting along well. We have worked hard on this problem, but have decided it is best for us not to be married anymore. We are getting a divorce.”
It is also important to explain to children that the divorce is an adult matter and an adult decision that has nothing to do with them. Explaining that it is about feelings between the two of you alone can help prevent children from assuming the problem was caused by them or their behavior.

Don’t Tell the Whole Truth

The reasons adults get divorced are painful and often complicated. Children are not equipped developmentally or emotionally to understand those details, even though they may ask you for the reasons for your divorce when you talk with them about it.
Here are some possible appropriate responses when children ask “why?”
  • “Sometimes adults have grown up problems that keep them from getting along well.”
  • “Sometimes parents do not have the same kind of married love they used to have, and find it is better for them to be just friends.”
  • “The problems we have are grown up problems that are not about you.”
It is especially important not to tell the full story if there has been an affair or betrayal. Remember that leaving information out of what you share with a child is not the same as lying. The parent who has been betrayed may feel they want to explain to their children that it is not their fault. While this is an understandable wish, it is harmful to children.
Have more questions about explaining divorce to children? Click here to contact us.
When children are aware one of their parents is against the other, or terribly hurt by the other, they cannot help but feel they must choose sides. For example, if a child’s mother hates their father, the child cannot understand how they will be able to love their father without hurting their mother. Children need both parents, especially after divorce, and choosing sides interferes with this very important need.
If your divorce is not a mutual decision, it is particularly challenging to keep what you share with children healthy and appropriate. Many parents feel they want their children to know the divorce was not their decision and they would never willingly do this to their children.
However, it is important to present the divorce as a decision that both of you are a part of. If you do not want the divorce at all, you can say something truthful such as “Even though it is sad and will take a little while to get used to, we both realize this is what has to happen.”
Children who know the details of which parent wants the divorce and which does not are burdened with overwhelming feelings of fear and anger. This prevents them from resolving their sadness about the divorce and moving forward in a positive way.
In part two of this series, we will discuss the importance of allowing your children to ask questions and the importance of reassuring them without sugar coating the details.
Tracy McConaghie and her husband Andrew McConaghie own McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. She specializes in helping children and families with divorce, parenting, anxiety and behavior problems. Andrew specializes in couples counseling, including divorce counseling.  Both Andrew and Tracy help divorcing couples create successful parenting plans for their divorce.  They are available for therapy or consultation in their office or via phone or video conferencing. You can also visit  McConaghie Counseling online at www.mcconaghiecounseling.com.
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By Cristiane Uchida, LAPC

The way we talk to children certainly impacts the development of self-esteem. Parents have a tendency to praise rather than encourage children, and there is a difference.

Praise

Praise has these characteristics:

  • It is External: Comes from others and reflects others’ thoughts and feelings.
  • It is Product Based: Focuses on the end result.
  • It Promotes a “Pleasing Personality”: Creates people who are motivated to get approval from others.

Examples of praise include:
“I am so proud of you!”
“Good job!”
“You are the best player on the team!”

Parents have a tendency to praise rather than encourage chidlren.

Encouragement

Encouragement has these characteristics:

  • It is Internal: it focuses on the person who performed, or is performing, the deed.
  • It is Process Based: Focuses on the process, rather than the result.
  • It Promotes a “Confident Personality”: Creates internal feelings of capability, responsibility and autonomy.

Examples of encouragement include:
“You worked so hard on that!”
“You accomplished what you wanted. How does that feel?”
“I appreciate your help.”

Encouragement helps children’s confidence grow by giving them the sense that they are capable of accomplishing things without worrying about pleasing other people.

Encouragement develops internal motivation for doing well. Although praise has its values, research has shown that encouragement has a stronger impact in helping a child to develop independency and self-esteem.

Cristiane Uchida, APC, NCC, works with individuals of all ages and is passionate about helping children overcome anxiety, anger issues, phobias, and low self-esteem.

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By: Cristiane Uchida, APC, NCC

There is no doubt that raising children is one of the most challenging jobs. There are times parents might feel tired, overwhelmed and discouraged when dealing with young children and the amount of patience that role requires.

Here are some tips to communicate your frustration when your child is not acting the way you wish.

1- Avoid labeling the child, so they do not internalize the message of being the mistake. The child and the behavior are two separate things.
a. Avoid: “You are slow”.
b. Instead: “You are going slowly right now”.

2- Avoid blaming your feeling on their behavior, own your feeling.
a. Avoid: “You are making me angry”.
b. Instead: “I feel angry when you don’t listen to me.”

3- Avoid using the words always and never. These words are extreme and rarely true.
a. Avoid: “You never listen to me.”
b. Instead: “You are not listening to me right now”.

     c. Avoid: “You always forget your towel on the floor”
d. Instead: “You often forget your towel on the floor.”

4- Avoid saying, “I told you so.” Children will learn from mistakes, so let them learn from their experience. When you say, “I told you so” it just makes you feel better and the child feel worse.
a. Avoid: “I told you so.”
b. Instead: Show empathy and say: “What just happened? What did you learn from it?”

5- Encourage success in the future.
a. “You are going very slowly today. I feel frustrated when I have to tell you so many times to get in the car. But I know you will do better next time”.

6- Be a good role model. The way you handle frustration will be an example to your child.

Cristiane Uchida, APC, NCC, works with individuals of all ages and is passionate about helping children overcome anxiety, anger issues, phobias, and low self-esteem.
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By  Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is the systematic process of using play and play materials to work with and help children with emotional and behavioral concerns. It is the ideal therapeutic model for children dealing with divorce, death, anxiety, trauma, anger, difficult life transitions, and other situations that cause stress or emotional pain. Children are small; the world and life’s problems can be very big.  When using play materials, children are in charge and they are in their natural element.  This allows them to explore feelings and situations in a safe and empowering way.

In a play therapist’s office there are toys that reflect a wide range of themes and experiences:  nurture, danger, safety, aggression, family, school, emotions, etc. Play therapists create a space and provide toys that allow children to find a way to express and process emotions and experiences.  By doing so, they gain emotional mastery and develop strategies to cope with difficult situations.

 

What happens in a play therapy session?

Play therapy can be non-directive, directive, and a combination of the two.  In non-directive play therapy, the child freely chooses what to do with their session, and the therapist facilitates, observes, reflects or may even participate in that play.  Non-directive play therapy allows children to follow their own heart and choose what they need to mange their feelings and solve problems.  Because play is the natural language and process of children, we can trust that they will choose play activities that offer what they need in the context of an accepting relationship with their therapist.

In directive play therapy, the therapist chooses or leads a play-based activity that they believe will be useful to the child.  This may include a game, role-play, art activity, or suggestion to make a sand tray or scene about a situation in the child’s life.  This type of play therapy may also include teaching the child about anxiety, divorce, social skills, and other issues that are common challenges for children.  Although therapists lead activities when using this type of play therapy, they still make sure to meet children where they are and respect their stage of development and needs. In addition, those experiences still include play because they can be fun uses of puppet, art, games, role-play and other playful experiences.

Play therapists often use both types of play therapy, depending upon the needs of the situation and of the child.

 

Play Therapy and Confidentiality

Parents understandably want to know about their child’s play therapy sessions because they are concerned about their child’s progress and want to understand and help their child as best they can.  A play therapist provides feedback to parents while still respecting a child’s confidentiality.  It may be surprising to some that a child needs confidentiality for their therapy sessions, but it is needed just as it is for adolescents and adults.  In therapy, clients of all ages experience a safe and accepting relationship with their therapist – this is the essential foundation of good therapy.  This safety is created in part by knowing that the therapist cares for, respects and holds what they learn from their clients as precious material to be handled with care.  Even children need privacy and rely on the freedom that confidentiality creates in order to make the most of their sessions.

Although play therapists provide confidentiality for their child clients, they still meet regularly with parents.  At these meetings, therapists are able to provide parents with useful feedback and insights about their child.  They also rely on these meetings in order to receive parent input about the child’s emotions and behavior to assess the effectiveness of the play therapy. It is very common for parent sessions to happen frequently so that the therapist and parents can work as a team to develop parenting strategies and address family dynamics.

 

Do’s and Dont’s for Parents

DO accept that play is therapeutic in its own right, and that although a play therapy session may seem like “just playing” to adults, it is actually a powerful and essential therapy tool for children.

DO keep in mind that sometimes therapy sessions for children include things that at first look may not seem like therapy, such as playing card games or checkers.  These activities provide a way for therapists to develop a relationship with a child, create a comfortable background activity for talking about important issues, and address concerns such as fairness, social skills, and acceptance of winning and losing.

DON’T ask your child to explain what they did in a session.  Just as when we ask children what they did at school, they are likely to say “I don’t know” – this is in part because it is difficult for them to process verbally, in part because children sometimes feel interrogated  and defensive when asked questions, and also because they want privacy.  Instead, say something like “I hope you enjoyed your session today,” or “I am glad you have ________ to help you.”  These open-ended statements are more likely to result in input from a child than a direct question.

DO let your child’s therapist know if you need more information about the play therapy sessions or have questions about them. They want to include you and want to understand your needs regarding frequency of feedback.

DON’T assign your child a task or agenda for the session, such as “make sure you tell the therapist about___________, or don’t forget to work on _______________.” Most of the time children eagerly look forward to their time with their therapist, and hearing from their parent what they “should” do can reduce the feeling of freedom and safety they have in a session. Instead, ask for some time with the therapist to provide your input about goals for the therapy.

 

 

You can learn more about play therapy from the Association for Play Therapy’s website, www.a4pt.org and by talking with your child’s therapist about any questions or concerns you have.

Tracy McConaghie, LCSW, RPT/S, CPDLT, works with clients of all ages, with a specialty in children, teens and parenting. Her husband Andrew is a couples counselor, and together they run McConaghie Counseling in Alpharetta. They can be reached at 770-645-8933, or tracy@mcconaghiecounseling.com.
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