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Diaries of a Child & Adolescent Therapist in Westchester, NY: 4 Things Your Child Wants You to Know

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

teen therapy, child therapist, emdr therapy for kids, kids and emotions, parenting

As a child and adolescent therapist, I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about their family dynamic, communication styles, needs and wants for a safe home. I am not a parent myself and never claim that parenting is easy, but I believe I give my clients a space to be seen and heard as individuals and not just children/teens. Because I'm not their parent, they are typically better able to open up more and talk about their home life. Below are some overall themes I talk to my clients about and things for parents to take into consideration when building or strengthening their relationship with their child.

1. Teaching Emotion Regulation

Children don't automatically know how to regulate their emotions and as obvious as this seems, it can still land parents and their kids in tension filled situations if the parent expects their kid to "calm down" all by themselves. I know everyone has heard "kids are sponges"; well, this is true . If your child only sees you yell when you're angry and not any of the other emotion regulation skills or conflict resolution skills you might be using, your child will yell when they are angry OR potentially be afraid of you when you're angry .

Taking the time to co-regulate with your child (use coping tools with them) and showing your child that you use coping tools, will give them the skills to use on their own in the future. This is one of my favorite books to tell parents about because it teaches coping tools and some are crafts you can do with your kid: Coping Skills for Kids Workbook

2. Not Comparing: All of Your Kids are Different

This is something I typically hear from teenage clients and honestly some of my adult clients as well; that they get compared to their siblings and don't feel good enough or loved enough just by being themselves.

It sometimes comes out in different ways that I don't think parents even realize and your child (and I) are well aware that it's not done intentionally, however, it's how your child is perceiving the message that sticks with them for life.

For example, something like "your sister didn't do that" or "you need more help than your siblings" can be seen as a small, nonchalant remark in the moment but what could be happening for your child is thinking: "I'm difficult" or "I'm stupid".

Most often, I hear that kids just want parents to see them for who they are and pivot the way they parent between siblings to be more in-line with how the child learns/processes information. This can happen by listening to your childs tone, picking up on non-verbal cues and even asking them questions so you and your child are always on the same page.

3. Being Heard and Validated, not Problem-Solving

Sometimes kids just want to vent! Something that I hear from clients is their parent going into problem solving mode because they've "dealt with this before" and not just letting their kid vent out their feelings and frustrations. As their therapist, I have defintiely had the thoughts of "I remember that happening to me at 16" or "I remember my college friend did something similar". There is something to be said for the age-old adage "with age comes wisdom", however, we can't let kids feel like they need years worth of experience/wisdom in one shot or they "should know better" because we've been through something similar .

Your child is allowed to have their feelings and frustrations over the things 10-year olds deal with, or 14-year olds deal with, or 17-year olds deal with. They are coming to you as the person that they can share their feelings with and don't always want the answers, they just want to know someone understands how they are feeling and they are valid for having that reaction to the situation.

One tip I give to parents is ask: "Do you want to vent or do you want to problem solve?"

I tell my clients to walk into a conversation saying: "I don't want the answers, I just want to vent." Something like that usually clears up the expectations of the conversation.

4. Open Lines of Communication

Consequence, judgment or anger are things that usually get in the way of open communication for your children. Open lines of communication starts when the child is young. It's going to be very difficult for your teenager to open up to you at 15 if they have never done that before without some type of judgement or consequence. It's not to say that sometimes a consequence or anger is warranted, however, it's the way you go about it that usually stops kids from sharing.

Kids and teens also want to know that you will keep their information confidential. It is 100% understandable that as a parent, you wouldn't want to keep anything from your spouse/partner or co-parent. What I typically hear is kids and teens finding out their parent told their friend or a different relative about something they shared and this can make them feel embarassed or not respected.

What I discuss with my clients is that even parents need a support system or advice at times and most often than not, a parents intention is not to embarass their child. However, my tip for parents is to be open with their kids: sometimes you need help or advice to which is why you seek out other family members or friends AND also, keep things between you and your child if they are asking you too - it means more to them than you know.

As someone who is not a parent, I can only imagine how difficult it is to be one. I know parents want the absolute best for their children and love them unconditionally. At the end of the day, we're all people, and even parents can make mistakes. This blog was to offer some insight on things I speak about with clients time and time again that I think parents should know.

It's not always easy for a child to explain this to their parent, no matter how old they are; so I'm hoping this was met with grace, acceptance and understanding. I hope you take something away from this post. If you or your child need help with communication, please reach out.

We are here to help.


child therapist, eating disorder therapist, therapy for kids

Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.

Stephanie specializes in working with children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety,eating disorders, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.


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