“My Child Needs Therapy!” What To Do While You Wait

by | Jan 31, 2023 | Family, Mental Health, Parenting with Purpose

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How can I help my child at home while they are on a waitlist for therapy? It’s so hard to wait. Sometimes it can be up to six months before your child can see a professional. If your child needs therapy, you get stuck thinking there’s nothing you can do. That is so frustrating! 

We understand that it’s difficult at home when you are waiting for your child to see a therapist. You don’t need to feel helpless. There are ways to deal with the waiting period that can also help family life run a little smoother. 

TALKING ABOUT THERAPY

Girl with back to camera pointed at a date on the calendar on a wall

As you are waiting for the appointment take time to talk about what’s happening. Your child may be worried about going to therapy. Explain that many other people experience these same emotions and worries. That’s one reason why you have to wait! Lots of people need help. 

Plan out the questions to ask the therapist. Include your child’s input. They may have questions you never thought about. Write down this information and also any important details from school, the pediatrician, and your daily life. The therapist needs to have the full story of your concerns. 

Besides talking about going to therapy, you still need to live with and cope with your child’s behaviors. When your child needs therapy, you also need to have strategies to support the therapy. The following suggestions and tools are for your consideration. You alone know which will work in your family. 

Routine

First, it’s important to make sure to have a routine as much as possible at home. Write down the routine and let your child see it. Go over it every day so they know the routine. Maybe have some visuals so your child can see it every day. That helps them to plan and trust what the day will look like. 

It’s also important to have some dedicated time with your child every day (One on One Time). It might be reading a book, playing a game, or going for a walk. This is a time when phones are off and you are giving your undivided attention to your child. It might be five minutes or maybe more. 

Make sure to include One on One time in the written routine. This way they know to plan for that every day. This One on One Time is also a time they don’t earn, it’s a time they can count on every day. 

Stay Calm

Next, it’s important for you to stay calm. Patience is very important and can be difficult in the moment. Practice using tools to calm yourself before a tense event occurs. 

As the parent, you might have to find some breathing techniques you like, ie. take 10 deep breaths before you respond. You can also use distraction as a tool also. Ask your child to find 5 things that are red or blue- maybe use their favorite color. This distraction gives you time to calm your emotions. 

You might have to tell your child that you’ll be right back and then step away. Take a minute or two break in another room. Having tools for you to use when your child is struggling really helps you remain calm. 

Calm faced woman with eyes closed

ACKNOWLEDGE FEELINGS

Acknowledge that they are having these feelings. You could say, “I see that you are angry right now. How can I help you? I am here for you.” 

Comforting, empathizing and “just being there” for your emotional child is often the best way to proceed through the big emotions. Give your child affirmation and the safety of a space to vent. After having some time, they may be able to process. If they can’t, that’s okay too. Show them you love them and let it go.  

Tools To Try Out At Home

Here are some tools for you to experiment with and find out what works best for you and for your child. They’ll learn to use them faster if you model using some yourself. 

  • Calming Tools – These are activities that help your mind to slow down and your bodies to relax. The connection between the brain and the body is so important. Try these out and see what works for your child and for you.
    1. Breathing exercises, 
    2. Fidgets, sensory box 
    3. Bath or shower, even playing in a sink full of warm, bubbly water

  • Thinking Tools – These help your mind to change direction. Repetitive thoughts, worries and negativity can be overwhelming. Try these tools to combat your thoughts. 
    1. Distractions- looking for a specific color, closing your eyes and noticing sounds 
    2. Replacement thoughts- change negatives into positives, use a list of questions to invalidate your worries, visualize a STOP sign as a trigger to stop worry
    3. Journaling or list making

  • Movement Tools – Getting your body moving increases blood flow to your brain and makes you happier. See if one of these helps your child cope with big emotions. 
    1. Stretching, yoga, 
    2. Go for a walk or run
    3. Do simple exercises, jumping jacks, knee lifts, arm circles, wall sitting

It’s important to practice using the tools when things are calm, so that your child can bring them to mind and use them when they are emotional. Most importantly, let your child know that you are going to stay with them and that you love them no matter what feelings they are having. 

Along with having a routine, staying calm, and acknowledging your child’s feelings these tools help your family during this time of waiting. And don’t forget to take care of yourself with some self-care and pampering. Parenting is hard work! 

“My Child Needs Therapy” What To Do While You Wait

By Dr. Kim Grengs, Ed. D., Parent Coach

 

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