Dis­obe­di­ent teen girl re­fus­ing to at­tend coun­sel­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD

Q: Our daugh­ter is 14 and doesn’t lis­ten to us. We think she is de­pressed. We want her to go to coun­sel­ing, but she ab­so­lutely re­fuses. How do we get her to go?

A: All too of­ten, coun­sel­ing is per­ceived as a threat to teenagers. It may be per­ceived this way for sev­eral rea­sons — in­clud­ing the stigma still as­so­ci­ated with it, the con­cern of be­ing told one is crazy, or how it is pre­sented by the par­ent.

A teen un­der duress may agree to at­tend, but it doesn’t mean the coun­sel­ing will bode well for them. You can lead a horse to wa­ter, but it doesn’t mean they will drink.

Some­times when a teen at­tends coun­sel­ing un­der threat or duress, it merely serves to pro­vide the im­pres­sion to the par­ent that some­thing is hap­pen­ing. How­ever, this is a lit­tle like ar­rang­ing the deck chairs on the Ti­tanic. It looks good that the teen is at­tend­ing, but the ship may still be sink­ing.

Be­fore send­ing your teen to coun­sel­ing, con­sider first go­ing yourself. In do­ing so, you can gain in­sight into the mat­ters af­fect­ing your teen and gain guid­ance on how to man­age any con­cerns.

I sug­gest not telling your teen that you are at­tend­ing. This way, your ef­forts and changes in strat­egy will be at­trib­uted to you alone, thus em­pow­er­ing you fur­ther.

How­ever, if you or the coun­sel­lor feels the teen should still be seen, you can be viewed as a role model for hav­ing at­tended first. This too is em­pow­er­ing — you lead by ex­am­ple and lessen the po­ten­tial stigma and fear.

The ex­cep­tion to the above is if you be­lieve your teen is a threat to her­self or some­one else. If your teen is self-harm­ing, talk­ing about sui­cide or en­gag­ing in sui­ci­dal be­hav­iour, you may have to take her — vol­un­tar­ily or in­vol­un­tar­ily — to the near­est emer­gency room for a psy­chi­atric assess­ment.

If you are hav­ing dif­fi­culty gaug­ing the ur­gency of the sit­u­a­tion, con­sult your physi­cian. Make your child’s safety the pri­or­ity. Have a par­ent­ing or re­la­tion­ship ques­tion? Send it in a brief email to ques­tion@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

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