Confessions of a Child Therapist

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Mental Health | 3 comments

Confessions of a Child Therapist

Before I had children of my own, I worked as a therapist with other people’s children. I saw (and still do) children of all ages as well as adults and adolescents, but for many years my primary clientele were children under age 5 who had been severely traumatized by abuse, domestic violence, or homelessness. I went through years of training specifically related to this population… 2 years of supervised work exclusively with very young children, a postgraduate psychotherapy program, and 8 years of work experience under the leadership of experts in the field.

I always assumed that all of this highly specialized knowledge and training would help me tremendously when I had children of my own… instead, I found myself holding a baby and drowning in a pool of too much knowledge that made me paranoid at every turn that I was “messing up” my newborn infant. Prior to having kids I thought I knew the exact methods, theories, and parenting books that I believed in… but with a baby of my own I found myself struggling to reconcile my own personal abilities and the unique temperament of my child with a by-the-book system.

The knowledge tormented me in a way. I just knew too much about all that happens in the first five years of life and all that can go wrong if certain needs go unmet. It left me incapable of taking ups and downs in stride, of forgiving myself for mistakes, of accepting my own shortcomings, and of just enjoying my baby. I neglected to realize that my work had been with children who had endured unimaginable and unspeakable traumas, losses, and abuses in their earliest, most formative years. The truth is, although far, far away from perfect, I was loving, supportive, and responsive enough that my worst moments of failing at motherhood weren’t going to destroy my child’s future. The truth is, I could never be perfect but I trust a perfect God Who can cover my parenting mistakes and compensate for my shortcomings when I entrust my children to His care.

I guess it was around the time that a therapist friend offered to lend me a book whose title I don’t exactly remember, only that it was something to the effect of “Why Therapist’s Kids are Crazy”, a lightbulb went off…

I’m not supposed to be exactly like a therapist with my own children.

The things that qualify me and enable me to successfully provide treatment to hurting children are not the same things required to mother children. While psychotherapy requires caring tempered by objectivity and great care not to insert too much of myself into the client’s process, mothering requires a real person who is emotionally involved and fully inserted in her children’s processes of growth and development. The very things I used to worry about harming my children – making mistakes and having to apologize, being imperfect, disappointing them, showing my feelings instead of remaining constantly calm and neutral – are now opportunities to model real relationship and real humanness to my children in the midst of an overall loving and secure relationship. When I make a mistake and then ask for my children’s forgiveness and God’s help in my life, they learn that I’m not perfect and they don’t have to be either, how to give and receive forgiveness, that feelings come and go but love is a choice, that we rely on God to love us perfectly even when people don’t.

Over time, I’ve abandoned most of my therapy training in the mothering of my own children. I’ve stopped applying theory and started applying prayer… for me, this illuminates so much more about their individual personalities and needs than any book knowledge ever could. I’ve held on to some things that I think are helpful, like…

Learning the ways my children communicate best and then speaking their language

Getting into their worlds and participating in the things that are most important to them

Helping them to understand and express difficult emotions by putting their feelings into words

Recognizing that behavior is communication and trying to discern what it’s telling me when they act out

Reading the above list, I find those to be things that mothers tend to do intuitively and naturally in the process of just being with their children. No special training necessary.

I think every mother today is in many ways burdened with too much knowledge and information. There are parenting books about every little thing, written from seemingly endless different and conflicting perspectives. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone. My mom and Husband’s mom often tell us they feel sorry for us in a way because of all the information we have at our disposal… in their day of raising children, I think the prevailing wisdom was “trust your instincts” and “mother knows best.” Somehow we all survived things that would be considered grievously dangerous for our children today. Maybe all of this knowledge and information actually gets in our way when we start to rely on it too heavily… distracts us from getting to know our children as the unique little people they are, trusting our own innate instincts, and relying on God to lead us in the best way to raise our babies.

“A few years ago, after reading the sixteenth parenting book that contradicted the first fifteen, I quit trying to become a better parent and decided to just become a better person.”

~Glennon Melton, Momastery.com

3 Comments

  1. nice this one is really cool!

    • Thank you for reading!

  2. An insightful post there mate ! Thanks for the post .

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