How to ask your parents for therapy
During the adolescent and teen years, ages 10-16, it can be challenging to advocate for yourself or express your needs to others, especially your parents. However, at this age, it is necessary because you are a dependent under the age of 18 or at the age of consent, which means your parents have to sign off for you to do something: and your parents pay for most things. Asking your parents can be easy for something you know they support or for something simple like candy from a grocery store. Think about the PowerPoint TikTok trends many kids use to ask for holiday presents or birthday presents. How can you ask your parents to go to therapy? That seems like a big scary ask, but it doesn't have to be. So here are a few steps to help you prepare to ask the question.
Tips for Starting the Conversation with Parents about Counseling
Gather all the information you want to say.
Of course, your parents will have questions, so ask yourself some of the questions you think they'll ask:
Why do you believe you need a therapist?
What is going on with you? Is something wrong with us?
Did something happen to you?
Why can't you talk to us about it?
How much will that cost?
The cost of therapy can be a huge deterrent, so find your options to discuss with your parents, such as insurance or payment plans. You should write your answers somewhere just in case nerves get the best of you when you are ready to advocate for yourself and ask for what you need. Being organized will help you in the long run. Flashcards or a piece of notebook paper are excellent for jotting down information. You want to be prepared to answer your parents' questions. So, why do you want a therapist? What do you hope to get from a therapist? You don't have to know all the details. Just jot down what you know to be true right now. Everything you are comfortable sharing.
Where will you feel comfortable talking to your parents? When is the best time?
After jotting down your answers, start thinking about the best place to engage with your parents, somewhere they would know you are serious about it and can focus. It should be where you feel comfortable, and it is best to do it in your home. (Sidenote: If you're in a two-parent household, ask them both simultaneously, so you only have to do it once.) Think of a place where you had conversations with your parents before. What's the appropriate time or place to make your request? It would help if you didn't ask when they are on the phone or working. Trying to request someone when they are busy can be stressful because they have to multitask. Try to get them when they are in the best mood they can possibly be in. If they come home upset from work, then you should hold off. Where are you and your parents most comfortable, the living room, dining room, or patio? This is helpful, especially if you're nervous. Remember that all parents are different. Think about how they react to other things in your life so you can tailor your approach more to their views and opinions.
Can you do it alone, or do you need support?
So now you've gathered information and chosen a comfortable place. Good. Now, ask yourself, can I do this alone? Do you need someone with you? If so, who do you trust to be there with you, and are they supportive? If you can do it alone, great, you can move on to the next step. If not, that’s okay. Let's reach out to someone who can help you. You may need to talk to the school counselor about the situation to get their opinion on how to proceed. You may have a friend or relative that has gone through a similar situation. It can be anyone, such as a sibling, grandparent, friend, teacher, or anyone you trust and will support you. Once you have that person, tell them what you need from them. Be clear with your expectations of the support person. You can also practice what you want to say to your parents with this person. Do you need them to be in the room? Do you need them to read the request that you wrote to your parents while you are in the room? Do you need them to hold your hand as you talk? Whatever you require of them, that's what they should do. Be sure to inform your parents that this person will be coming to the house to avoid your parents feeling cornered or attacked by this third party.
Let's get ready to ask!
What's next? If you're ready, go and ask! If you need some time or a way to relax from being nervous, plan a time to do it. A time when everyone is free and can be focused on you. Set up a time with your parents (Sidenote: This time should be fairly soon, within a few days at the latest, especially if you feel you need a therapist's support.) Whatever method you use to communicate with them in-person (face-to-face), a text, or an email. Make it specific, for example, "Mom, dad, tomorrow night after dinner can we meet in my room for a few minutes? I want to talk to you guys about something. It's not an emergency, and I don't want to get into it now, but I can share it tomorrow after dinner." Use clear communication and put them at ease. Ease their minds by assuring them that you're not in any immediate danger, they are your parents, and they may get anxious or worried.
Be prepared for rejection.
If you are extremely nervous about asking for therapy, part of the reason is that you are afraid they will say no. It is important to prepare yourself for this reaction ahead of time. Unfortunately, people often react negatively when they hear the word therapy. Your parents may get defensive or think therapy is a waste of time. Give your parents time to think over your conversation with them. They might need time to adjust to the idea of their child wanting therapy. Preparing yourself ahead of time can help you stay grounded in the moment. You may need to practice in front of the mirror. Getting overly emotional at the moment may lead to anger, fighting, or saying something impulsively that you could regret in the future, which will not benefit your cause. Remember, it may not necessarily be about you. Again, many people get sucked into the negative stigma of therapy. Be sure to rely on your support system outside of your parents so you can talk to people you can trust. Be sure to consider the other resources you can access easily, such as services your school may provide or confidential online resources. Preparing yourself for rejection does not mean it will happen. It is best not to let your parents swipe an emotional rug from under your feet.
Advocate for yourself and ask for what you need!
It can be scary to ask for things sometimes, so if you are nervous, that is totally normal. Remember when you are asking not to be accusatory towards your parents, as this will make the situation tense and more negative than it needs to be. Focus on you and what you need. “I need therapy because I am feeling this way.” Remember to keep them involved in the processes you may be explaining to them. Many people who ask for help get nervous about it. Asking for therapy is a brave move because you are taking steps to advocate for your needs properly. You are prepared, stick to the scheduled time, take a deep breath, squeeze your supporters' hands, share your thoughts, and ask to see a therapist. Remember to focus on why you feel it's necessary. You got this!
It's not always easy for minors to talk to their parents about counseling, but it's necessary to advocate for yourself and get the support you need. Remember to gather information, choose a comfortable place, and bring a support person if necessary. If you're looking for counseling services, consider Neurofeedback & Counseling Center of Pennsylvania, which provides counseling for teens, including virtual counseling. Don't be afraid to take the first step towards better mental health and well-being.