I have had so many therapy sessions where parents begin the conversation by apologizing. “I’m so sorry, we just didn’t get a chance to practice this week.” “I feel awful, he’s not wearing his hearing aids as often as I know he should.” “I’m sorry, there just wasn’t a chance to read together last night.”
These parents are plagued by guilt and the need to confess, but they’re confused about my role. I’m not their parent or their teacher or their boss. They don’t owe me an apology or an explanation. My job is to be their cheerleader, not their taskmaster.
If I’m doing my cheerleader job right, I’m designing carryover work after each session that will integrate seamlessly into the family’s normal daily routines (or, less elegantly, I’m setting them up to “fall into a hole”). If I’m building an open, nonjudgmental atmosphere in therapy, parents and caregivers can share both their wins and their struggles without shame. After all, nothing is gained from a parent feeling bad that they didn’t practice x, y, or z over the past week. On the other hand, LOTS can be gained when the family and therapist problem-solve the issue together. Why was practice difficult? Was it too confusing, too challenging, not relevant, or not engaging enough? How might we fix some of these issues? Where might the goals fit during daily activities in the week to come.
Parenting is hard, and parents have enough obligations and more than enough judgment outside of our therapy sessions. They need a cheerleader, not a taskmaster. Rah-rah, parents!