I’m Not Ashamed That My Family Goes To Therapy
BY NATALIE ROMERO
Photo © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/123RF
Jun 28, 2019
It’s not uncommon for conversations around our dinner table to be about mental health. We aren’t ashamed to talk about what’s weighing on our minds and our souls. We try to openly communicate when we feel hurt or disappointed or angry.
Basically, the message that we are trying to get across to our children is that seeing a therapist is like seeing a doctor. When your body gets sick you go to a doctor, and when you are struggling with your mind you go to a therapist.
Through a referral we found a great family therapist. The key word here is ‘family;’ this was definitely a family affair.
I had begun to notice that my son seemed a little down. When I talked to him about it he wasn’t really able to point out why. I chalked it up to hormone changes given his age, but something wasn’t sitting right with me. Honestly, I wasn’t positive if he genuinely didn’t know or if it was something he wasn’t comfortable talking to me about. When he wasn’t shaking it I asked him if he’d be open to speaking to a therapist.
It was a proud mom moment when he said yes without hesitation.
The truth is, we were all struggling a little. The busy life of a family with two working parents and two active kids was starting to kick our butt. We felt as though we were simply existing and not really living. Every day blurred into the next and we noticed that we were beginning to be curt with each other. We continued to spend a lot of time together but I questioned if it was quality time. Rather than enjoy each other's company, we seemed to zone out.
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We needed to re-centre.
Through a referral, we found a great family therapist. The key word here is ‘family,’ because this was definitely a family affair. Our therapist specializes in family therapy with an emphasis on children and she is wonderful.
My husband and I met with her first, and we discussed that we were worried about our son’s mental health. I worried about the amount of pressure he put on himself, and how I was contributing to that.
I was just worried.
“This is the first time I’ve been a Mom” I told him. “And this is the first time you’ve been a kid. We are both learning as we go, but we can figure it out together.”
My husband and I sat beside each other and cried as we spoke about where we were as a family and how unprepared we felt for some of these situations.
I was messing up on this whole parenting thing wasn’t I? I wondered out loud.
During our initial conversation, we learned that our struggles weren’t abnormal. Many families find it difficult to work through some of these tough issues. What indicated that we were, in fact, not messing up is that we were willingly seeking out help.
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Each of my children met with her individually. Truth be told, I don’t know exactly what they talked about, but I know that she made them feel amazingly comfortable. Sometimes they walked her beautiful soul of a dog together while they chatted. Other times they played a board game together while they talked. On more than one occasion my son drew while he spoke about what was stressing him.
Each and every time the session ended, she made sure to loop us in if she had concerns and my kids came out smiling.
My husband and I met with her again without the kids to talk about some of the things that were weighing on my children. She helped guide us through some areas where our parenting style wasn’t aligned and helped us with solutions when we felt as though we were at a roadblock. She gave us suggestions on the best way to approach a soon-to-be teenager with worries that might be big to him regardless of how insignificant they seemed.
In the end I credit this therapy for reminding us what our family does best and that’s be there for each other.
If we’re honest with ourselves and each other as parents, we will acknowledge that none of us have this parenting thing figured out. We are all doing our best with what we have been given to raise good human beings. One of the most impactful conversations I have ever had with my oldest child is when I owned up to not having the answers. “This is the first time I’ve been a mom” I told him. “And this is the first time you’ve been a kid. We are both learning as we go, but we can figure it out together.” It seems simple enough but it was a huge weight lifted off me to admit to my kids that I don’t always know the right thing to do or say.
At the same time, we also have to acknowledge that our children’s lives are very different from the way ours were. They are dealing with issues that we never faced. The pressure children face is not only different, but it starts earlier and never ends; being constantly plugged in means they don’t get to escape it.
Read Another Mom's POV Story: I Let My Kids Take Mental Health Days From School
The greatest gift we can give them is not pretending we know how to solve these problems, and giving them permission to ask for help and to not make mental health struggles shameful.
We are a few months into our family therapy journey, and to be honest, I think this chapter is coming to a close. We were given support through a particularly difficult patch of life and have been given the tools to recognize if this happens again.
This in no way signifies the end of our mental health journey both as a family and individually. Just like visiting a doctor doesn’t guarantee that your body will not fall ill again, visiting a therapist doesn’t guarantee that you won’t face another mental health crisis in your life. But what I hope is that my kids have learned that there is nothing to fear in therapy. I hope they see how much it can change the path you are on and the impact it can have on helping you create a beautiful life.
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