5 Tips to Prepare Your Child for a Psychology Consultation

Parents often ask how to prepare their child for their first visit to a psychologist. “Should I tell my child about the appointment? What should I say? What if my child doesn’t want to go?”It’s not uncommon for parents to be just as anxious as their child about seeking help, and navigating this process is a wonderful opportunity to model healthy coping skills and problem solving for our children. Below are some tips to help both parents and children prepare for a behavioral health appointment.

Timing is key. Choose a calm moment to talk to your child about an upcoming appointment. Seeing a psychologist shouldn’t be a punishment, and breaking the news in the middle of an argument or after a stressful day can build anxiety. Instead, if we approach the topic with ease and enthusiasm, we can help reassure children seeking help is a normal, healthy habit.

Honesty is the best policy. While it may be tempting to skirt the topic, it’s important to be honest with children about where you are going. Nothing is more disappointing for a child than showing up at a doctor’s office after being told she was going out for lunch. Explain the reason for the appointment as an opportunity to “feel better” rather than figuring out “what’s wrong.” If you want to spend some special time with your child after the appointment, all the better! If your child is initially hesitant about seeing a psychologist, creating a pleasant and supportive experience around psychology visits will help create positive associations.

No shots here. While it may be helpful to explain the role of psychologists as “doctors for feelings,” children should also be reassured there will be no shots or exams at these visits. For example, telling your child, “this type of doctor talks to families to help them solve problems and feel better” may help ease their worries and prepare them for what’s to come.

Avoid the blame game. Neither parents nor children should feel singled-out in therapy. Psychologists understand that problems don’t occur in a vacuum, and pointing fingers will only make things worse. Help your child avoid shame and guilt by talking about problems as something that is happening rather than a part of who they are.

It’s a team effort. Therapy is collaboration between the family, child and medical team, and everyone should feel like an important part of the team. Remember, while psychologists are experts in emotions, behavior and problem solving, it is you and your child who are the true experts in your own lives and family.

Excerpted from “5 Tips to Prepare Your Child for a Psychology Consultation” from Texas Children’s Hospital. Read the full post online.

Source: Texas Children’s Hospital | 5 Tips to Prepare Your Child for a Psychology Consultation, https://www.texaschildrens.org/blog/2016/10/5-tips-prepare-your-child-psychology-consultation | © 1998-2021 Texas Children’s Hospital

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