Letters from a therapist: Things your child’s therapist wishes they could say to you


Gerda Kriel is a clinical psychologist with a special interest in maternal mental health. Here she shares what she knows every therapist wishes they could say to the parents of their young patients. 

Dear Parent,

At the beginning of this new year, I feel the buzz of energy all around me.

It’s everywhere, that golden buzz of expectation, of freshness, the newness of this year with its endless potential.

I see it in your kids, wearing crisp new school clothes, shouldering bags larger than their frames and with freshly polished shoes.

And I see it in you: hopeful glances toward your child’s bright future as you drop them off at school, with their Instagram-worthy lunchboxes and branded sports bags. 

It’s just that this freshness, it never lasts. By the end of the first term, I will see kids trickle into my practice.

For some, the look of hope will be replaced by shame.

For some, their confidence will be shattered into despair. For others, their energy will be depleted by fatigue and burden, even heavier than their school bags. 

So now, while we are all still fresh, here are some things I want you to hear.

From me, your child’s therapist.

1. I want you to remember that your child is unique. They have unique talents and skills that may not fit into your box of expectations for your child.

They might have talents for which there is no club at their school. And they really want you to be okay with that.

2. You. Are. The. Parent. (Read that again, please). This means that you are the adult, and you are the decision-maker.

You are also the guardian, and you are expected to act in your child’s best interest.

Yes, children need age-appropriate responsibilities (like making their bed), but you get to decide the big stuff. Like what is for dinner, or what they watch on TV, or when they go to bed. 

Read here about helping your child make friendsIs your child struggling to make friends? Here’s how you can help them

3. On that note: They probably need to go to bed earlier. Your pre-schooler should be sleeping between 10 and 12 hours a day,

your primary schooler between 8 and 10 hours and your teen should be clocking 8 hours. If they are not: fix it. They will thank you later. 

4. Try replacing the money you spend on them with your time. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time. 

5. I really like your kid. They are funny, unique and can have the darnest conversations.

You know who they want to have those conversations with? Not me. You. 

6. Your child will be disappointed. If not this year, maybe the next. And that is okay.

Your job is not to shelter them from the pain of disappointment, but to lovingly and acceptingly guide them through it.

7. It is your job to teach your kids kindness, respect and industry.

Every moment is filled with opportunities to instill values in your kids that will make them responsible citizens to this world. 

Also read: How sharing your children’s private lives online could ruin their future autonomy

8. Your kid is going to make mistakes. Yes, and so are you. But let me teach you a secret: mistakes are great gifts!

They are chances for you to guide your child through something they did, for you to be humble about your own humanness, and for you and your child to navigate the beauty of imperfection.

Your child’s mistakes do not define them. Neither do yours.

9. Lastly: Love your kids. Unconditionally. With no limits or reservations. 

10. Lastly for real this time: They will be children for a short time, but they will be YOUR children forever.

Give them a childhood with memories you can remember fondly together.

With warm regards, your child’s therapist.

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