Help! My Child Refuses Counselling

Family Group

Help! My Child Refuses Counselling

Do you think your child is struggling with an issue in his/her life? Have you considered sending your child for counselling but fear that he/she may oppose it?

At TOUCH Youth Intervention (TYI), we often hear of parents airing their concerns about their teens’ various issues – excessive gaming or screen time, emotional management issues such as depression, anger management and more. After many failed attempts to get their children to improve their lifestyle or behaviour, the parents are helpless and at their wits’ end, and shared that they would like to send their teens for counselling to rectify their behaviour. However, more often than not, their children would refuse counselling or any professional intervention.

One of the reasons for that may have to do with the perception of what counselling entails, which in turn affects children’s response to the suggestion. The truth about counselling is that it aims to advocate for an individual’s best interests and is not about persuading him/her to change. More often than not, advocating change for another individual requires an effort to first flow with his/her resistance, followed by finding a common ground for desiring change.

If you are thinking of sending your child for counselling, here are three considerations you may like to keep in mind before deciding to do so or broaching the subject with your child.

Your child is not a “problem to be fixed”
Keep in mind that counselling should not be used to fix your child but help your child overcome the problem that is hindering him/her from leading a healthy lifestyle. Often, the “problems” such as excessive gaming or device use are merely symptoms of a deeper issue or need.

For instance, excessive gaming is often a vice adopted by youths who are seeking an outlet for their lack of real-life esteem. The virtual world provides them with an escape from troubles in real life and may also provide them with an ego boost and affirmation when they are given attention and respected by online team members for being good at a certain game.

In such cases, the youths will only cut back on gaming if they can identify other forms of motivation in real life and have their need for attention, understanding and self-esteem met.

It is crucial for parents to pay attention to their children’s needs. Ask yourself “Is there an aspect in life that my child is struggling with? Have I been listening to my child lately?” The problem is not your child, but the issues your child is struggling with.

Many parents and youths tend to think that counselling centres are where youths are sent to get “straightened up” and because of that youths may have thoughts such as “What if they make me quit gaming completely?” or “If I change, my controlling parents will think their methods are effective, so I must never give in.”

This adverse attitude towards counselling starts to result in many youths’ refusal to go for therapy because of the mindset that has been instilled in them beforehand. Hence, if you currently have a negative perspective towards counselling, try changing it first and your child will most likely follow suit.

Your child needs his/her own buy-in
Change comes from within. Bear in mind that counselling is not going to work unless your child is willing to go for it. Hence, it should be at the heart of every parent for their child to be able to own the change within himself/herself.

Try sitting your child down to discuss their struggles with them. For example, if you find that your child is using the Internet excessively, shed light on the effects of their current usage and how it can be detrimental to their health. Next, ask your child if these effects are what they would like to experience in the long run. While holding this conversation with your child, assure them that you are not trying to control or make him/her stop using the Internet completely. Be fair-minded and conscientious about your child’s needs and wants, but at the same time, stand your ground when it comes to setting the boundaries that should never be crossed – for example, no using mobile devices during meal times with the rest of the family.

Your child would like to see you working on something too
We often see instances where the youth’s struggles stemmed from that of their parents’. This means that parents can either be part of the problem or part of the help – if parents are willing to change, their children tend to be more motivated to change as well.

As you gradually bring up the topic of counselling, promise your child that you are committed to their journey of overcoming their struggles and gently convey to them your openness to the idea of counselling. Don’t forget to hear your child out with regards to their needs and wants, and have the counsellor facilitate a discussion between the both of you in order to advocate for both parties. Be willing to invest your time and effort in your child’s counselling journey and let your child participate in your own character change along the way.

As counselling is the family’s opportunity to iron out issues, navigate more effective interaction patterns, and build stronger bonds, don’t insist on sending your child for it but rather, raise the subject of counselling therapy for the family in an open manner.

Are you and your child ready to embark on a journey of counselling, an improved lifestyle and better family relationships? Get in touch with us by calling the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) or click here to find out more.

This article is contributed by TOUCH Youth Intervention (TYI). TYI was set up in 2017 to better meet the range of challenging issues facing today’s youths. TYI specialises in counselling and programmes for at-risk youths supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Its areas of focus are on cyber wellness, mental wellness and youth issues.