Navigating the First Conversation about Therapy with Your Child


Layla Team

December 22, 2023

Parenthood is a series of significant milestones and conversations, and one of the most pivotal yet delicate subjects to broach is introducing the concept of therapy to your child. This guide aims to help you approach this conversation sensitively, dismantling the stigma around mental health and creating a safe, non-judgmental space for your child to express themselves.

  • Picking the Perfect Moment: Seek out a comfortable spot where you and your child can connect without disruptions. Timing is everything; choose a moment when both of you can immerse yourselves in an uninterrupted discussion. Consider when your child is naturally more open to discussion like during breakfast, bedtime, or in the car, and establish routine check-ins to build a pattern of trust and communication. 
  • Crafting Age-Appropriate Dialogues:  Use clear, reassuring language suited to your child's understanding, avoiding complex terms or jargon, as difficulty understanding mental health concepts can be a deterrent to speaking up about mental health. Iuse relatable metaphors, like comparing therapy to seeing a doctor for a physical ailment. Teach them to express and label their feelings. 
  • Authenticity and Openness: Lay bare the reasons for discussing therapy. Emphasize that therapy is a positive stride toward helping them navigate challenges, likening it to a visit to the doctor for physical health. It is important to let them see you talk about emotions and therapy as children learn through imitation and mirroring. 
  • Normalizing the Therapy Narrative: Foster open and non-judgmental conversations about mental health from an early age. Share stories of therapy being a commonplace practice, emphasizing its role as a tool for personal growth and well-being. Instill the idea that seeking help is a demonstration of strength. Understanding that talking about mental health is normal is a foundational aspect of youth feeling comfortable in accessing mental health services.
  • Expressing Care and Affection: Assure your unwavering love, clarifying that suggesting therapy is a means of providing support, not a judgment of their character. Be aware of your reactions and thoughtfully consider how you are responding to them. It is important to show interest in their thoughts and opinions without being intrusive or making kids feel like they have to talk when they are not ready. 
  • Attentive Listening: Engage actively in listening to your child's thoughts and emotions, free from any judgment. It can help to confirm your understanding of what they have shared by repeating what they’ve said and encouraging them to share more when they are comfortable. 
  • Spotlight on Positive Outcomes: Highlight the benefits of therapy. Emphasize that it's a space for acquiring new coping mechanisms, gaining self-awareness, and enhancing overall well-being. Discussing positive aspects of therapy can help to remove uncertainty and will be beneficial if taking the step to initiate therapy. 
  • Involving Them in Decision-Making: Where appropriate, involve your child in the decision-making process. Seek their input on what type of support they need. Ensure they are aware of resources that are available to them like counselling services or support hotlines. 
  • Tackling the Stigma Surrounding Therapy: Engage in family activities that are focused on reducing stress and provide discussions around this, demonstrating mental health conversations and therapy as normal. Part of lessening the stigma around mental health can be attributed to parents who are increasingly more aware of mental health and are willing to discuss it. It is also important to address diverse cultural or social perspectives and barriers that may exist. 
  • Seek Additional Support: A crucial aspect of supporting children’s mental health is supporting parents. Reach out to a mental health professional yourself, speak with your Physician, or access available resources such as the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation which provides a thorough overview for teaching children about emotions. 

Conclusion: Guiding your child through the realm of therapy is a journey marked by understanding, compassion, and growth. Approach this discourse with sensitivity, utilize language that resonates with their age, and weave in metaphors to normalize the notion of seeking mental health support. In doing so, you're not just fostering open communication but also laying the groundwork for your child's journey of self-discovery and resilience. Embrace this opportunity to be their guiding light on the path to emotional well-being.

References and External Links

- Facing mental health challenges? Layla is here to help - Individuals, couples, and families use Layla for personalized, convenient therapy. Layla matches you to a suitable therapist and manage the therapy process in a warm, dependable manner, supporting you on your journey to better health. Learn more here

- New to therapy? Here's your beginner guide - Starting therapy can evoke feelings of vulnerability, but knowing what to expect can help. The journey is individualized, with no exact right or wrong way. During the first session, typically administrative matters are discussed, goals are set, and you and your therapist will get to know each other. Fit between you and you therapist is very important for your outcomes, and it's okay to switch if the fit isn't right. Therapy is adjusted to your timeline and constraints, and can range from weekly to monthly sessions. Reflecting on what you wish to accomplish can guide the process

Disclaimer: The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered healthcare or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate support.