Recently, I was at a year-end meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Adult Education Division, in which I am credentialed. I was reminded, by inspiring words from retiring teachers, of my experience counseling children directly, teaching parenting, consulting with teachers and supervising Marriage Family Therapist Interns who counseled kids at the schools.
One teacher brought in to focus that everyone is a child and/or a parent. The child/parent relationship is so central to all relationships. You might ask yourself to describe a favorite teacher. What qualities would describe the best teacher? You are your child’s first teacher.
Children, I find, are very responsive and resilient, one-on-one. The way I work is strength-based. Often I begin a session by asking, “What do you do best?” or, “I hear you are a good cheerleader”, because children recommended for therapy by schools and by parents are often defined by the problem. They are the problem. The same is true of many who seek therapy. It is as though we have been swallowed up by the problem in an emotional take over. The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem. Together we examine the problem and the child’s relationship to it. Some questions I ask are, “How is the way you are acting working for you? Is that what you want to have happen? What would you like to have happen? What are some other possibilities? How is the problem influencing the family and other relationships?”
Imagine a rope made of red, white and pink threads. From a distance the rope looks pink. As you come closer and closer the colors begin to separate from each other, and become clearly red, or white, or pink. The process of therapy clarifies thinking and increases mindful, conscious awareness and the ability to mange emotions.
Children often pretend, for example, that anger is a monster. At first the monster is in charge of the child. Then they create solutions, such as smashing the anger and vacuuming up all the pieces, or imaging a big red stop sign, as the body signals anger approaching. The child takes charge of the problem, instead of visa versa. Parents, teachers, client and therapist collaborate as a team to make life happier and more productive for everyone involved.