4 Reasons Why Family Counseling is Needed in Child Therapy

You may have considered child therapy but have you thought about incorporating family counseling as well? You know your child needs help. You’ve noticed the increase in outbursts and how out of control his emotions seem. Perhaps you’ve noticed how much anxiety tends to take over for your child. This leads your child to withdraw or shut down from others. Maybe your child even received some therapy in the past. You saw some benefits but weren’t quite sure. Other than a quick update every now and then, you weren’t exactly sure what your child was supposed to be working on. Or even what you could be doing to help. So you’ve given up on getting help and tried on your own. New rules, reinforcement charts, conversations—but nothing seems to help.

Unfortunately, when a child’s emotional struggles feel so overwhelming it can be hard to address without support. It can even feel that the more you try to address difficulties with your child, the worse the issues become. You are trying so desperately to help your child learn to handle things better, but something isn’t clicking.

man and woman holding each hand of a child as they walk down a path

Perhaps it plays out for your family like this:

You are in the living room and your son is throwing a huge tantrum—again. This time it’s about having to put his toys away to come to dinner. Honestly, it can be about anything these days. Homework, somebody said the wrong thing to him, getting in arguments with his siblings.. And not just at home either. Your son has trouble keeping friends and seems to always be getting in trouble at school. You feel like you have to hover over him just to get anything done lately. Everything just feels so overwhelming.

Now you feel stuck. You’ve tried so much already. Talking to your child, trying to stay calm—maybe even therapy. Nothing seems to work. You notice the issues intensifying, and now it’s taking an even bigger toll on the family. Your other children are fed up. You and your spouse might not agree on how to handle things. These issues are putting a strain on your marriage. You know something needs to change, but you are unsure how.

When change feels so elusive, it’s time for the whole family to get involved. Although individual therapy can be very helpful for a child, deep change happens when the child’s goals can be connected to the areas of growth for the family as well. The truth is a child who struggles emotionally likely already feels singled out or at fault for family problems. If you are being honest with yourself, you may also feel this way. Unfortunately, placing the spotlight on one person within the family tends to hinder progress.

When the whole family is invested in the therapeutic process, we see changes at a deeper level.

This type of involvement is more than just receiving updates on what the child is working on. Instead, it’s linking the child’s goals to areas of growth for the parents and siblings as well.

Here are a few key reasons why including family counseling in child therapy can produce deeper, more meaningful change.

child with braided pigtails looks away in a feild

Reason Number 1 Family Counseling is important for child therapy:  Getting to understand how the family’s dynamic affects your child’s symptoms.

Oftentimes, parents get their child started in individual therapy due to noticing emotions or behaviors that are interfering in their child’s life. These can be big temper tantrums, constant worries, or symptoms of depression leading to isolation. These issues might be the most noticeable concerns at home. However, there are likely more subtle factors also contributing when it comes to the family.

Family counseling can help explore dynamics that contribute to the cycle.

For example, often as one child is exhibiting big behaviors, we may notice the attention of the parents nearly solely focused on the child. This can lead to a sibling feeling they need to be the “good one.” This can also put a big strain on the marital relationship of the parents or lead to other family problems. What tends to happen is that the child may then start exhibiting even more concerning behaviors. However, these complex issues can’t be addressed by the child, but instead need to be addressed as a whole family.

In short, family counseling can help explore dynamics that contribute to an unhealthy cycle. Understanding the whole cycle and not just the most noticeable portion can help create the change you are looking for.

In Child Therapy in Simi Valley, Ca we strive to include the whole family in creating change. By exploring family dynamics, strengthening your marriage, and addressing other family issues, you can learn how to create deep-rooted change not only for your child, but for the whole family.

toddler taking a picture of parents and sibling

Reason Number 2 Family Counseling is important for child therapy:  Including the whole family can reduce your child’s defensiveness.

When you are able to send the message that “it’s not just you,” you increase your child’s buy-in for therapy.

Being able to demonstrate willingness to explore changes together can send a powerful message that self-exploration and growth is safe. Oftentimes when children with emotional difficulties enter therapy, they have already internalized the message that there is something “wrong” with them. Including family counseling in a child’s therapy program can help your child realize others also experience difficult emotions and have room for growth.

At Simi Psychological Group, we include family sessions into a child’s therapy program when appropriate. As a child is learning to improve their own emotional awareness and understanding, including parents and/or siblings help the whole family learn how to do the same. It is often a unique experience when a child gets to hear their parents talk about what makes them nervous or what confuses them. It’s often so surprising to the child to find out these feelings happen for parents too! We use age-appropriate activities to provide opportunities for the whole family to practice communication, feel on the same team, and increase flexibility. These sessions can often feel fun and engaging for a child who is so used to feeling the pressure of only addressing their own struggles.

Reason Number 3 Family Counseling is important for child therapy: Recognizing your own barriers.

While nothing you are doing is the cause of your child’s symptoms, better exploring your own emotional struggles can be essential to addressing your child’s behaviors. When your child becomes anxious, do you feel like a bad mom? When you set a boundary that is met with resistance, do you struggle to keep your cool? You ever find yourself worried that you are doing some of the same not-so-good things your parents did? All of this is common, but when left unaddressed, it can impede making changes.

When you are able to recognize your own emotional struggles, and find what you are intending to work on for yourself, this is guaranteed (and I don’t use that word often) to benefit your child.

family of 5 members holding hands together and walking

Knowing how to separate your emotional struggles from your child’s struggles, helps you feel more confident and more purposeful on how to help your child.

During child therapy near Thousand Oaks, Ca parent sessions are imperative. The goal of these is not only to problem-solve various situations that come up at home. Instead, the goal is also to explore what these situations are like for you…where you feel a lack of confidence or overwhelming uncertainty. Learning to parent from this deeper emotional level will help you feel in control.

Reason Number 4 Family Counseling is important for child therapy:  Everyone has a role for change.

Using family counseling as a component of your child’s therapy can help everyone in your family understand their role in creating change.

Creating family goals such as having a gratitude jar, taking breaks when frustrated, or “catching” each other doing kind actions has many benefits. First, your child who is in therapy doesn’t feel that he/she is the only one needing to work on these things. Secondly, it gives you as the parents continued focus and intention on incorporating these aspects into your family’s day. Third, you get to feel like you are setting the tone for your family as parents. You do this by modeling what it is you are hoping to see from your child. This approach is far more likely to create deep change for your family than only focusing on your child’s goals.

When ‘family goals’ are created, your child will have an easier time spotting you modeling these behaviors. For example,. taking a breath when frustrated and being flexible if you don’t get your way. As everyone, including your child, is more aware of these moments, your child will feel more capable of engaging in these strategies. Also, these family goals can be focused on positive behaviors such as keeping a good attitude when something doesn’t go your way, or being helpful around the house. Finding ways to highlight the positive can help decrease negative behaviors and improve self-confidence for your child.

During family counseling in Simi Valley, Ca our therapists and psychologists strive to have your family leave the session with a sense of purpose for the week. Finding fun, engaging, and meaningful goals to work on together helps strengthen connectedness and is one step toward creating meaningful change.

In short, working together as a family is essential in helping a child who is struggling emotionally. The child may still need individual goals and attention to help cope with their own struggles. But placing these goals in the context of the whole family growing can help limit pressure and encourage progress.

About the author

John Danial, Ph.D. 

psychologist Simi Valley ca

I am dedicated to going through the changing process with you and your family, working together toward the goals and aspirations you have for yourself, your child, or your family. I encourage all clients to challenge their negative thoughts and recognize harmful patterns and start by helping them develop meaningful goals and areas in their life they would like to see change. Learn more

Therapy services offered at Simi Psychological Group 

Now Offering Online Therapy in Los Angeles and Online Counseling Ventura County 

At our therapy practice in Simi Valley, Ca we offer Child therapy and family counseling, Teen therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Neuropsychological Testing.