You’ve noticed the signs. Your child seems different to you: more worried about things that didn’t use to bother him, more angry at times she used to be calm. Or maybe, your child has asked you directly to see a therapist. He wants someone to talk to about what’s next after graduation. She feels different than everyone else at school. You’ve searched around the internet, found some prospective therapists, and even made some calls.
Now is the time to talk to their other parent (your spouse or a co-parent) about getting them in for an appointment. You’re not sure how they will respond. They may be open and willing, or they may have questions or even concerns about the process. Either way, you know you have to have the conversation.
Try these suggestions to ease the discomfort of beginning to talk with them:
Is this a good time to talk? It may seem hard to wait until there is a special time to talk. The days are busy, and sometimes you and your spouse may not get time alone until the evening. If you are co-parenting, you may never have one-on-one time unless you plan it. Either way, conversations about the wellbeing of your child are not the best to be had if attention is low or time is sparse. When you’re ready to talk with your child’s other parent about therapy for your child, make sure that there is enough time for the conversation, that it is in a space where you can share all your feelings without worries about privacy or your child overhearing. It is also important that other parent is in a place where they can actually hear what you have to share. The importance of therapy disappears on the sidelines of games, over texts at work, or while dropping the children off for the weekend. How do you know when the right time is? Rather than assume, ask the direct question. If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, ask for a specific time during the next day or week to sit down together and talk about your concerns about your child.
I’ve noticed some changes with [child] including…and I’m concerned. What do you see? When you speak from a place of “I” you disarm defenses and open doors to more effective and neutral communication. Speak from your own perspective about the changes you have seen with your child. If your child has specifically asked for counseling, include their request to you in this observance, and share about the conversation if you feel comfortable. Then, allow the other parent to share their observations. Remember that the other parent may or may not see what you see, and they may not interpret the symptoms you’ve noticed the same way that you do. We interpret based on our own beliefs and experiences, so consider where your partner or co-parent may be coming from, and use empathy when listening to their opinion.