Many parents want to know what to say to their child about coming to see me. How to prepare them depends on your child’s temperament and why they are coming. There are no hard and fast rules. You know your child best, so keep reading and see if these ideas appeal.
Regardless of age, it’s best not to link the visit to “bad” behaviour such as school refusal, hitting your brother or not listening to the teacher. Just simply say that I work with children with big feelings and you think I might be able to help them. If there is an issue that your child can readily identify is causing them distress, such as bereavement, bullying or gender identity, you may refer to that.
It’s best not to say I am like a doctor or a teacher, because that gives children ideas about me that might change the way they would normally be with me. You can say that you have meet me and found me nice friendly, interesting, reassuring, whatever nice positive thing you want say! You can say it’s my job to get to know them.
Children will take a lot of cuing from you, so if you are anxious about the idea of assessment or therapy, try your best not to show it, and try not to talk about it too much. A discussion a few days beforehand when you tell them when they are coming, and then a reminder on the night before, or for anxious children, the morning of, can work quite well. For children who are a bit apprehensive or need a lot of structure, you could show them my picture on the website and tell them how long they are coming for. You will probably have been to the room yourself. Some children will like to know details about where you will park, the waiting room, what my room looks like, what I have there, and some will not.
Here are some tips specific to age group. You can choose what you think will work best for your young person.
Young child (3-6ish years)- Young children will generally come along quite happily with a minimum of explanation. I suggest something like “We are going to visit a person called Nicola to look at and play with her toys. She has lots of things you might be interested in and she is a friendly person”.
Middle aged tamariki children (7-11ish years)- There might be a feeling of not wanting to be different by coming. This age and above can feel a kind of stigma about therapy. You can normalise it by talking about how lots of children come and find it helpful, and perhaps you do too, if you have ever seen undertaken your own therapy! You don’t even have to use the words “assessment” or “therapy”, perhaps it will work better to say “talking to someone” or “person who helps kids”. These aged children might find the room is too “babyish”. That’s OK, tell them teenagers come here, and they can talk if they prefer.
Older children, rangatahi, adolescents and young adults (9ish+ years)- this is the group who you can appeal to their desire for things to be different for them. One way for things to be different is to come and see me about how they are feeling. You can say that you are their mum/dad/grandparent/aunty and you can do that job, but you think they need a different kind of person to help them with their feelings, and so you can all learn how to make things better, together.