From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Counseling for Children

Child counseling can be extremely successful if you support your child throughout the counseling process. Family counseling also works wonders if everyone bands together and supports each other through the changes that are being made. Follow these tips to support your child and family in therapy:

1. Be there to listen and offer caring support, without judgment, to your child during the time in child therapy

2. Meet with the child’s counselor to make sure personalities are a match for you and your child.

3. Be open and talk frequently with your child. Make sure discussions are age appropriate; early school aged children need brief, simple discussions or explanations, upper elementary age children may ask more detailed questions and may need help figuring out reality from fiction.

4. Don’t pressure the child to talk to you about what happened in the child counseling session, your child may tell you in his/her own time in his/her own way.

5. Keep the lines of communication open with the child’s counselor and the child. Showing your child that you trust the child’s counselor helps build trust.

6. Try not to rush change. Remember trust is built over time; it’s not any different in child and family counseling. Allow time for your child to learn to trust his/her counselor. If you become intimidated by the child-counselor relationship, bring it up to the counselor (there’s nothing to be embarrassed about).

7. Patience is extremely important throughout the child and family counseling process. Children often don’t know how to express their emotions and fears like an adult would, therefore may have some temporary behavior changes throughout the process.

8. Be a good role model, show the child you are willing to take care of yourself and if you need counseling, seek it.

9. Make time to discuss your child’s worries, fears, and even accomplishments. Be sure to turn off any distractions (phones, TV, video games, etc.) so your child knows how important the time with your child is to you.

10. Most importantly, enjoy favorite activities with your child alone and with the entire family.

If you have any questions, throughout the process, speak up. Maesk Group Counseling is here to help!


From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Childhood Emotional Neglect

This is a great article about emotional neglect from childhood by Dhyan Summers, MA, LMFT:

How to Recognize and Overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect

Because it’s mostly silent and invisible, childhood emotional neglect is largely an overlooked phenomenon in psychology. Unlike physical neglect or abuse, where there are signs such as bruises or children coming to school underfed, emotional neglect is difficult to identify as there are frequently no observable signs. More importantly, emotional neglect is generally unrecognized by the child until symptoms begin to appear in adulthood.

Emotional neglect can take many forms, from a parent having unrealistically high expectations or not listening attentively, to invalidating a child’s emotional experiences to the point he or she begins to feel self-doubt. When a parent is not emotionally attuned to a child, there is no mirror held up, no positive reflection being shared with the child. Developing a positive sense of self, then, becomes more challenging for the child.

Symptoms of Emotional Neglect

Symptoms of childhood emotional neglect that show up in adults may include (but are not limited to):

  • “Numbing out” or being cut off from one’s feelings
  • Feeling like there’s something missing, but not being sure what it is
  • Feeling hollow inside
  • Being easily overwhelmed or discouraged
  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Pronounced sensitivity to rejection
  • Lack of clarity regarding others’ expectations and your own expectations for yourself
  • While having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you were emotionally neglected, if you identify with more than one symptom, it may be worthwhile to talk with a therapist about the possibility.

What Kinds of Parents Tend to Emotionally Neglect Their Children?

First, let me say most parents are well-intentioned and well-meaning and generally do the best they can. Some may have experienced emotional neglect themselves as children, and therefore may not have a lot to give emotionally. However, there are some parenting styles and characteristics that lend themselves to emotional neglect.

Authoritarian parents want their children to follow the rules, and have little time or inclination for listening to a child’s feelings and needs. As adults, children raised by an authoritative parent may either rebel against authority or perhaps become submissive.

Permissive parents have a laissez-faire attitude about child rearing and may let children pretty much fend for themselves. Children raised by permissive parents may have a tough time setting boundaries and limits for themselves in adulthood.

Parents with narcissistic qualities feel the world revolves around them. It’s typically all about the parent’s needs instead of the child’s. As adults, these children may have difficulty identifying their needs and ensuring that they’re met. They may even feel that they don’t deserve to have their needs met.

Perfectionistic parents tend to believe their children can always do more or better. These are the parents who may complain when a child brings home a report card with all A’s and one B. Children of such parents may grow up to be perfectionists, and set unrealistically high expectations for themselves, resulting in anxiety around feelings of never being good enough.

Absent parents can be removed from a child’s life for a variety of reasons, such as death, illness, divorce, working long hours, or frequent travel for work. Children of absent parents end up raising themselves to a large extent, and if they are the oldest child may also raise their younger siblings. These children tend to be overly responsible, which may carry over to adult life. As children, they seem like little adults, overburdened with worry about their families.

Tips for Recovering from Emotional Neglect

So what can you do if you think you may have been emotionally neglected as a child? Here are some tips:

1. Learn to be aware of positive and negative emotions when you’re experiencing them.

If you’ve spent your adult life being disconnected from your feelings, the first step is to learn to identify positive and negative emotion. It’s important to acknowledge just good and uncomfortable feelings to begin with.

Once you have that down, you can focus on noting subtler nuances of feelings. You may not even have words for how you feel, which is perfectly normal if you didn’t grow up in a home where people talked about their feelings.

2. Identify your needs, and take steps to meet them.

Many adults who experienced emotional neglect as children are often unaware of what they need and typically don’t feel deserving of getting their needs met. Develop your emotional vocabulary by researching emotions and needs online or at the library. Once you know what you need, it’s time to take action.

3. If you believe you don’t deserve to have your needs met, acknowledge the belief and see it as just that—a belief, not a fact.

It can be helpful to begin to deconstruct old beliefs you’ve held for a long time that may no longer hold true. Like everyone else on the planet, you have emotional needs that you deserve to have met, no matter what you experienced in childhood.

4. Be gentle with and take good care of yourself, starting with small steps.

Adults who experienced emotional neglect as children often have difficulty with self-care. Unaware of their feelings and needs, they frequently don’t know where to start. Try treating yourself with the same care and gentleness you would give a child who wasn’t able to take care of themselves. Be tender and compassionate with yourself, especially if you tend to be self-critical or judgmental.

And remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day! This is a process. When you skin your knee, you need to clean out the wound and expose it to the light of day; the same holds true for emotional wounds. Dare to bring the wound out of hiding, give it some light and air, and you’ll be on the road to healing.


From Maesk Group Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Talking to Your Child

How to to Help Your Child Listen and Follow Directions

1.  Get close to them and use their name to get their attention first.  It is not helpful to call from across the room.  For example, go up to your child and say, “Sally, I have something I need you to do.”  

2.  Once you have their attention and eye contact, give them the direction in an age-appropriate manner.  A three-year-old may not be able to do more than one step at a time.  You will likely be able to give your twelve-year-old 3 directions at a time.  For example, “Get dressed, eat breakfast, and go wait for the bus.”  

3.  Give directions with a calm, but serious voice.  Yelling will likely escalate your child, and this will not help them to be cooperative.  But you also want them to know that you are not joking around.

4.  Give directions in a positive manner.  Tell them what TO DO, instead of what NOT to do.  For example, say, “Walk, please,” instead of “Don’t run.”  Also, be descriptive so that they know exactly what you expect.  Instead of saying, “Be good,” which is very vague, say something like, “Put your hands on your lap and sit on your bottom.”  

5.  DO NOT ask a question when giving a direction.  Do NOT say, “Do you want to clean your room?” if this is not something that they can say no to.  Also, do NOT say, “It’s time to do your homework, okay?”  The okay and question at the end implies that it is up to them to decide.  

6. Provide two acceptable choices, such as, “You can eat breakfast or get dressed.  Which would you like to do first?”  You can even start by saying, “You have a choice!”  

7. Empathize with them if your child complains about what you asked them to do.  “I know you are having fun playing and don’t want to stop.”  “I understand that you don’t like cleaning your room.”  

8.  Give them something to look forward to after completing the task.  “As soon as you are finished putting away the dishes, you can go outside and play.”  

9.  Help them if the task is difficult, while still making sure they are doing their part.  “I will help you clean your room.  Would you like to put away your clothes or your toys?”  Then you can put away what they do not choose.         

10.  If nothing is working, tell them about the consequence if they do not complete the task.  Try to make it a natural consequence.  A natural consequence is something that would happen naturally as a result.  It also helps to give them a time frame.  For example, “If you do not get dressed before we leave for school, you will go to school in your pajamas.”  “If you do not put on your coat, you will be cold.”  Or if there is no natural consequence, try to make it related to the task.  “If you do not clean your room before bed time, I will take away those toys that are not cleaned up.”

11.  Enforce the time limit and the consequence.  It is important that your child knows that you mean business when you tell them something.  If you give in or do not follow through, they will learn that they can test you because they do not always have to do what you tell them.

12.  Children behave best when they are feeling loved.  Make sure that you spend plenty of positive, fun time with them.