As a new counsellor, I have found alot of stigma, myths and tension when it comes to counselling children. I thought it would be easy but no sir, at this point I wish I could counsel more couples than children. Why? It isn’t that I don’t like children, I love children but the major stem that hinders progress are the adults who are in direct contact with children that is – the teacher, parents, guardians, relatives etc. On numerous occasions I have clashed with the adults more than the children. Why? Cause they think they know best and they want to control these children. And it is sickening! They never respect you as a counsellor, they never respect the confidentiality and to top it off, the language that they use when they are addressing these children is disgusting. And it becomes really tricky to talk to these children.
When parents or teachers come to us about their children, they think we are fixers! People who will flip a switch on these children and voila they act fine. We treat mistakes that children do as pandemics, we crucify them, we breath down their necks and immediately want to switch this child for a better child. We take them to the sunties and uncles for them to be fixed! We want it fixed. We compare them and whereas our intentions are good, how we handle it is a major issue that might spike a trauma. And as adults in children’s spaces, we tend to forget that we are a large factor that influences how our children act!( this will be another blog ). And as a counsellor / therapist I donot fix, I help one find ways to cope, I help one understand their emotions etc. I don’t fix! Anyway, what do adults do that make it hard for me as a counsellor to do my job!
1. The language used by adults
I don’t think that we understand the magnitude of language when addressing most things in the society. “Call a spade a spade” – is a myth. For example in news headlines when we are talking about young girls who have been raped, or corruption, we always find a more downing way to present the issue and it seems abit subtle which is excrutiating. The same applies to children. How do we address them? What do we call them? Most parents / teachers immediately project their fears or societal perceptions onto their children when they make a mistake. How? An example – a 13 year old ‘girl’ who is found holding hands with a boy – is called a whore or a child who leaves their toys around is immediately labelled a ‘disorganised kid’. Some adults might even laugh about this as they talk about it. Now some ages are abit too sensitive for one to constantly be called such things or to be labelled. A little child from the age of 4 to 10 is not to be labelled but guided! Why? Cause that age has an extreme attachment to the most direct peoplein their lives. The immediate adults – that means the parents! They imitate, they learn from you and in relation to kids these dayswho are more sharper than we were they’ll question you on why you do certain things yet you tell them not to do it. That age is massively tricky and I am not saying that parents who do not do this are bad parents but watch what you do in the presence of your children ( watch what you do as a person ). You want them to read a book, try reading one yourself just for 30 minutes. No interruptions. This age needs massive guidance and motivation. Now when they cross over to 11 or 12 then they’ll start being their own adults. They will not necessarily mimick you but they’ll struggle with their own identity. It is funny but at the same time it is not so funny. And in this time, our fears as parents, aunties as adults in this space triples. Cause it isn’t easy. But is calling them ‘ a prostitute, useless, or whatever’ does not help!
We immediately attach our fears and what society has told us to think about people when they do certain things. And when parents walk into the counselling room, this is how theycall their children to me, a stranger! ( and you want trust as a parent ). And it makes it hardfor me as a counsellor to navigatecause a child at that point thinks thatI think of them as a ‘useless brat’ because their most immediate adult said so. Or another example of this is when a parent walks in, and just says ‘here is the child, I have left her / him with you, I am tired’ – you are tired? Saying this in the presence of your child! LANGUAGE! And if you are to ever get any parent or teacher or administrator that says this please have a package that includes the adult. Cause if you are able to counsel a child and things look great then a child might not exactly be safe with an adult thatspews such statements! Have the first or maybe two sessions with the child and propose it to the adult that they have to come in for a session or two. And as I advance, I think this is something that I am definitelygoing to implement. Cases that involve children should have a counselling session with an adult!
Being a young person in this field is hard. You are constantly fighting for your place, the respect and people honoring the confidentialityclauses! Dearest adult – I am not going to discuss with you anything without my client’s consent. There are special cases where the confidentiality clause is broken – like when the client is going to harm themselves or if the law is involved like a murder case etc. All of which you are told if only you get to read the papers that we give you to sign! I am not going to discuss with you anything. The only thing I get to tell you is as a parent you are lacking here and here or do this and this. Which comes from the conversation and after my client has agreed thatI should tell you. Respect these confidentiality clauses, I am not going to gossip with you. There is a children’s home that I know of and this counsellor used to unveil everything to the adults in the place and the adults would shame them or insult them etc. It is embarassing and disgustingto have people in the field who cannot respect this and for the parents or teachers who cannot honor this. As a new counsellor, as you read out these confidentialityclauses, the exceptionslook tricky right, they are vast. I think it is best to ask the client to present the one person they think can be trusted when such things occur. Like incase of the law issue, have a slot that accepts on the lawyer, the police and the next family member or friend, incase of self harm, the doctor and the caretaker and maybe a close family member. You get the gist. This applies to all parties and it can fit all ages that come in for counselling.
How have I worked around it?
1. Counselling shouldn’t just be about the child. Counsel the parent too. Let it come as a package. Talk to both of the parties. And maybe the last 2 sessions, you could combine them and do a group session of sorts. But let the sessions still centre around the child. You are aiming for a vetter relationship, environmen, better response from the child to the parent and vice versa! You as a counsellor, you aren’t much of a constant as the parent so ensure that both parties are in sync to work together.
2. Confidentiality. If they need it spelt out for them then do it. Let them understand what confidentialityis and how it works. And also, the exceptions where confidentiality could be broken should entail when, how and to who these details will be unveiled to.
3. Community self care. As a counsellor or therapist aim at having all systems working together to ensure the proper growth of a child. Which brings me back to point number 1, counsel the parent, ensure that goals are set and accomplished, follow up and evaluate. Do not just stop at talking. Aim to ve a better person at your job. ( a blog about this is in the works)
4. As a parent or an adult in the space of a child, I understand that we get over whelmed! And that we are in constant fear and we want to raise beautiful well behaved children. The pressure is at its peak when it comes to children but let us not forget that from the get go these children are humans – they are dependentyes, forging their way through life yes. Let us be slow. Let us listen! Ask a child if they want you to intervene or to give advice or to just listen. See their weaknesses and guide them through. Help them cope. Let them see our weaknesses too. Smile with them. What I normally say to parents is communicate the way you’d want themto communicate with you. Cause at the end of the day they will do unto you as you do unto them. Be slow in your replies, walk away if you feel the frustration building up. Ask them to take a walk with you! Go to your bedroom if you feel the need to say words like ‘ I wish I wasn’t your mom or father’ . And for those who haven’t yet given birth or those on the path to do so – go for therapy, read some books, be a better person before you think of stringing them along.
I think I am through with my rant. I had to get it out. And as I head into this field, I am learning. It is a journey, a fun one and I cannot wait to see what happens.
Thats all folks!