Many couples are openly embracing marriage counseling to strengthen their relationship. It can be especially useful for establishing better collaborative skills to approach challenges like raising a family. Yet, if you have children, should you clue them in about the fact that you’re going to marriage counseling? NJ counselor Chuck Beardsley weighs in here.
Why You Might Want to Tell Them
If your children are old enough to know that there has been some friction between you and your spouse, chances are, it’s a good idea to tell them that you’ll be attending counseling. Here’s why: while fights between parents can stress and frighten children, seeing you take an active step towards improvement can alleviate some of their fears. Oftentimes, situations can intensify inside children’s minds. Once subjects are out in the open and discussions take place, however, they can foster a better understanding and sense of ease.
If you need couples counseling your kids probably know it. They may not know about counseling, but they know there’s a problem. If you think you’re hiding your disconnection from your kids, you’re probably wrong-depending on how old they are. Talking to your kids about counseling can normalize therapy and asking for help-things we may want to rely on later.
Should you decide that speaking to your children about counseling is indeed right for your family, now may also be a good time to clear the air about any arguments you’ve been having. You can explain to your child that it’s not their fault you’re having differences, and you might also apologize for arguing in front of them in the past. Make it a two-way conversation by asking them if they have any concerns or thoughts they’d like to share. Continue to keep the lines of communication open, and remind them that they can come to you with any questions or feelings they may be having.
Of course, age should also play a role in your decision whether or not to tell your children about counseling. Preschool or early grade school-aged children may not yet be able to grasp the concept of therapy, so don’t feel pressured to tell them just for the sake of transparency. Trying to communicate these adult topics to them may only cause more confusion. Older children, on the other hand, will catch on to the “date night” excuse if it falls on the same night and time each week.
How Much to Tell Them
Honesty and open communication are the foundations of healthy families. With that being said, the challenges you work through in marriage counseling should largely remain between you and your spouse. Telling your child too much could make them feel as if they need to “take sides” or may worry them. Instead, keep the conversation neutral by saying things like, “We’re speaking with an expert who helps parents get along better.” You can also help to ease their woes by letting them know that everyone has disagreements from time to time—just like how they may have arguments with friends and siblings—but that doesn’t mean two people who fight don’t care about each other very deeply.
When considering marriage counseling, NJ couples can turn to Chuck Beardsley, LCSW, in Mountainside. With training from the Gottman Institute, Couples Institute, and Relational Life Therapy, this experienced counselor works with couples who are looking to strengthen their relationship and restore companionship through proven strategies. Find out more about his approach here.