Family Therapy for children recognizes problem behaviors in families from a family systems perspective. What that means is that the Marriage and Family Therapist recognizes that family members who are having difficulties can be the problem while, at the same time, they can be the symptom. For example, in a dynamic often seen, when mom and dad focus upon a child who is misbehaving it helps divert attention from the interpersonal conflict they are having with each other.
At the same time, a child’s misbehavior can be more than a symptom of the family’s relational challenges; it can also be due to a number of other factors that need to be addressed first. For example, children with obsessive-compulsive behaviors or chronic depression may be dealing with chemical imbalances that need immediate attention. Nonetheless, the family is still a factor as they have developed patterns that may perpetuate the problem or, even, unintentionally make it worse.
Helping children deal with intense, negative feelings in constructive ways can be challenging, especially when those feelings are already being expressed in ways that are extreme or inappropriate. A part of helping children deal with intense emotions is to help them learn to identify feelings with words that describe those feelings.
Always looking for new ways to help kids communicate this link to a mother’s attempt to help her child identify feelings and to act appropriately is interesting. Many children play these video games starring Angry Birds. Perhaps one way to clarify feelings is to give your child some expressive faces, verbal associations and some idea of consequences associated with good and bad behaviors and words.
It usually takes a great deal of energy for a parent to finally pick up the telephone or send an email asking to schedule an appointment for counseling. One of the first questions a therapist will ask is “What event or situation led you to set up a time to meet?” The answer to that question begins the process of identifying the problem which immediately lends itself to specifying the goal of therapy. In solution-focused, brief marriage and family therapy the therapist will want to know how the problem started, how the family addressed the problem and what factors may be going into maintaining the problem.
By the second or third session the therapist begins the process of formulating a strategy to help the family tap its own resources to address the challenges in new and different ways. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, the wonder of the family systems approach is that healing often involves a rich mixture of behavioral changes, re-alignment of perceptions and assumptions and a creative channeling of the family’s focus and energy to promote healing and stronger relationships.