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Children Having Difficulty Communicating Emotions to Their Parents
Children often do not share their feelings with their parents and will even hide them when they are not quite sure why they feel the way that they do, or simply wouldn’t know how to communicate what is difficult for them. Close relationships like a parent-child relationship can make it hard to catch small changes in behavior. You may notice that your child has become less engaged in family activities or with family members, but it may be hard to pin-point the reason behind it. It is even harder for children to come to their parents with their feelings as they get older. Children may begin to feel gaps in the bond that they share with their parents and start to feel as if the attachment to their parents is not as strong as it once was. If unresolved, your child may feel as if they or their feelings are not important, which can lead to increasingly severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, which may show up as frequent conflicts between parents and children, or defiant behaviour and stroppiness. Parents may also notice that their child is acting out, doing poorly in school, and also exhibiting self and outwardly destructive behavior.
Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) can be an excellent way to understand difficult emotions and strengthen the bond between parent and child. EFFT can be a bridge between parents and children that allows children to communicate their emotions and the problems that they are being faced with. It is a great way to allow parents the opportunity to learn how to help their child manage their emotions and behaviors while learning the skills to support their children, and help to take on the lead role in effecting positive change in their child and their relationship.
Parents Having Difficulty Communicating Emotions to Their Child
EFFT is also helpful in a reversed role where the parent may be the one who feels a more significant gap in the relationship with the child. This tends to happen in parents who have begun to rely more on their children for support in times of sickness, or it could be coming with age. As parents enter older ages, they tend to rely on their children more. Many parents who begin to rely on their children for help or guidance can start to feel as if they have lost their sense of individuality and need more assistance for activities that they used to be able to do on their own. Parents may also be going through stressful life events such as divorce, a medical diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one.
This can lead to negative emotions for the parent and a child leading to conflicts in the relationship, as both the emotions of parent and child are not shared clearly or effectively. Both then can start to disengage when feeling lonely or exhibiting symptoms of depression. Neither simply may not know an effective way to share their feelings with their children. Parents often have a harder time asking for assistance from an emotional standpoint as well.
Therapy that Gets to the “Heart” of Conflict and Disconnection
Here at EFT Clinic we can help with effectively navigating the possible conflict between a parent and child to create a pathway to resolution. The Emotionally Focused Therapy approach allows the parents and children to understand each other on a new level that makes it easier to come to a positive solution. In the process of therapy, you will gain ‘tools for life’ that can be used to help repair and restore a bond between a parent and child.
A Snapshot of the Change Process in Emotionally Focused Therapy (Johnson, S. Attachment Theory in Practice, 2019)
The patterns the family identify are that Josh (son, 11 y.o.) and Sam (dad) are caught in constant conflict, with Josh taking an oppositional stance to every request made by his father and exploding when Sam repeats his requests; that Josh is less reactive with his mother, but when she tries to talk about family issues, terrifies her with threats of self-harm; that Emma (mum) and Sam (dad) have a constant complain/defend followed by a dismiss/ withdraw cycle in their “always unhappy” marriage; and that John (older brother) occasionally fights with Josh, but mostly remains outside the circle of anxiety and conflict the family is in.
Therapy consisted of an initial family session, sessions with the parents, sessions with Sam and Josh, and a session with Emma and Josh, then a final session with both parents and Josh.
Therapist does not give parenting advice or techniques per se, but validates how hard it is to parent sensitively, to attune to a child and respond empathically when we do not have our own emotional balance. Therapist focuses on shaping a new safe emotional experience of parenting support for this couple and a way that they can help regulate each other’s difficult emotions around the dilemmas of parenting and so provide a more secure base for their son. When the family sessions are over, they accept therapist’s suggestion that they go into couple therapy and work on their relationship as a couple.
At a follow-up session, the family reports that Josh is generally calmer and there are now no more “storms” or threats of violence or suicide. He is doing better in school, and Sam and Emma are better at cooperating as parents and are also working on their relationship. Both parents agreed that the “bonding piece really worked here. It was critical. Without it we weren’t going anywhere. It hit the nail on the head.” Josh and Sam began to do activities like playing pool together, and Sam was more tolerant when Josh did “creative” things like decide to make his older brother a huge birthday cake that took over the kitchen for 2 days.
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Get in Touch to schedule Free 20min Initial Phone Assessment or Face-to-Face extended Assessment with your therapist
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