How can counselling help you connect with your family?

Speak to any parent and they will tell you how stressful raising a child can be. Whether it’s attempting to keep them to their bedtime routine, keeping the house tidy or preventing them from causing accidental harm (often to themselves!), it can put a lot of pressure on a parent. It can get more complicated when the child has mental health issues whether that be an eating disorder or general anxiety and depression.


Around 75% of mental health issues are established by 14-24 and around one in six 6-16-year-olds struggle with mental health issues. This shows that the childhood and late teen/early adult time in our life can be very formative in creating our perspectives on the world and more importantly, ourselves. Often there is a long period of struggle before they are ‘established’ too, whether these are the experience of traumatic events or confusion over identity. It can be easy during this time in our lives to feel overwhelmed, lost and disconnected from the world and people around us.

As a consequence, parents can then have all those stresses projected from their child whom they are caring for, plus general life stressors such as work/relationships and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing how to help their child. It often leads to the thought, ‘how can I help someone else without having an understanding of my own mental health?’. On top of that there are the inevitable questions of ‘am I pushing them too much?’, ‘should I leave them alone?’ or ‘what environment do I need to create to support them?’.

Due to this, counselling for parents can be incredibly useful to provide a place for yourself to explore these kinds of questions without being judged. It can be difficult to find a space for yourself to explore your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours when you have so much else to worry about. Often clients come and find the idea of having a space to explore things for themselves very different, but often find the benefits of it to be positive when they start to engage.

How can counselling help?

Here are some ways counselling can help:

  • having a safe space to explore thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  • talking through strategies to best support your child
  • a place to vent
  • talking through any personal issues away from supporting your child
  • develop more understanding of your child’s mindset and behaviours

What can and can't counselling do?

A counsellor isn’t in a position to offer advice or tell you how best to support, but they can provide the best environment and ask the right questions for you to understand what is needed in more detail.

One of the biggest issues is the disconnection that happens between the parent/child relationship during this difficult time. I have often seen how that is often the biggest concern amongst parents, that they no longer have the relationship they used to have with them or the relationship they want with them.

Counselling can help to understand that in more detail too and understand some of the key events and moments that have strained and affected the relationship. Similarly, there can be the option to explore your own relationships and experiences growing up that have led to your current relationship with your child.

Often, there are many events we have experienced in our own childhood and early adult life that inform our attachment with our children in the present too. It’s important to remember that when your child is suffering from mental health concerns, it is not a true version of ‘them’ that is responding angrily or shutting you out from their thoughts. Even in the ‘average’ parent-child relationship, there are more levels of disconnection than ever before with the increase in the use of social media (sometimes from parents too) and the many extra pressures children face today compared to even 10-15 years ago.

Ultimately, counselling can aid in providing you with a positive mindset to care to the best of your abilities. When we have reduced stress, more control over our emotions and an idea of what we are aiming to work towards, this can have positive effects on the relationship with our child too. An example of a model that may be used in therapy is the ‘cycle of compassion’. This is the idea that compassion is needed to be experienced in three ways:

  • Compassion for other people
  • compassion for yourself
  • receiving compassion from other people

Whilst caring for someone we are naturally providing compassion to other people, but compassion for yourself is also central to better mental health. We can often find ourselves being harsh on ourselves when we become stressed caring for someone else, particularly if the support is ill-received or progress isn’t going as quickly as intended.

Therapy can help develop that self-compassion side to ourselves. Alongside this having the right support and people around you can be important too, especially if you are not receiving compassion from the child you are supporting too, and counselling can provide a safe, non-judgmental and compassionate space to be received too.
Hopefully, the above blog has given a little bit of insight into how counselling can be useful for parent/carer support. If you are wanting to know more about this support, feel free to contact us through our website or give us a call.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 1UL
Written by First Steps ED
Derby, Derbyshire, DE1 1UL

Danny Morley is one of First Steps ED's passionate therapists and a specialist support officer. Danny and the team work throughout the Midlands and further afield, to provide support for individuals and families affected by eating difficulties and disorders.

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