Definition and Overview
Parenting counseling is a type of service that aims to provide the necessary knowledge, tools, guidance, and most especially support to parents without bias or judgment. This way, they become more fully equipped to take care of their children.
Although becoming a parent is rewarding, it is also challenging. The responsibilities that parents must fulfill are huge. They are required to:
- Raise good children who can contribute to the society
- Provide a home that is loving, supportive, and caring
- Meet all the needs of their children such as a home, education, food, healthcare, and education
- Take care of their respective spouses
- Support the community they are in to create a safe and productive place for their families
- Give their families a comfortable life
They need to do all these while they also try to meet their own needs and cope with their personal struggles.
Parents are susceptible to different types of problems that can greatly affect how they take care or manage their families, especially in how they guide and raise their children.
According to Parenting NI, a leading organization that provides support for parents for the past 30 years, some of the most common issues faced by parents include:
- Separation or divorce
- Child behavior and development
- Aggression or violence
- Family tension
- Confidence or self-esteem
- Substance abuse
- Teen issues
- Mental health
Parenting counseling offers modalities or therapies that help parents gain a better understanding of their parenting style, face and eventually conquer their personal issues, and even restore the family, bringing back harmony and peace in the household.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Parenting counseling is recommended to all parents. However, it is more of a necessity for those who are:
Experiencing marital issues – Problems in the marriage such as finances and infidelity have a large impact on the marriage and children. Studies have shown that marital infidelity can result in low self-esteem and a feeling of abandonment in children. They may also develop skewed perceptions about love and marriage.
Suffering from a health problem – Health problems including mental health issues can prevent parents from being with their family, especially with their children, as often as they like.
Undergoing separation or divorce – Separation or divorce is just as impactful to the children as it is to the parents. While parents have to cope with being independent after years of being dependent, children have to deal with the instability of family relationships as they move from one parent to another. Some parents may disconnect themselves from the lives of their children, further increasing such instability as they sometimes look for the missing parent figure in others. Divorce or separation also introduces the struggles and stress that come with being a single parent. Single parents who are also head of the family may find themselves spending significantly less time for themselves and their children.
Experiencing abuse or aggression – Any abuse inflicted on the parent can build tension, fear, and more aggression in the household. Children can grow up with anger, indifference, and hate. Some children may also become aggressors themselves.
Coping with loss – A loss of a family member such as a spouse or a child, a job, or a marriage can disturb not only the parent but also the children as the former may not be able to properly carry out his or her responsibilities to the latter.
Dealing with children’s issues – Children can also be a source of stress and problems for the parents, especially since teen behaviors change over time. In one of the recent studies, it is shown that parents are most concerned with teen substance abuse. But teens are most worried about mental health issues and bullying, which are often missed by their parents.
Abusing illegal substances such as drugs and alcohol – Substance abuse can affect many facets of the family, including financial stability and marital relationships. It also increases the risk of mental health illness and abuse.
Parenting counseling is a multi-fold approach and multi-step process. Results cannot be expected immediately, although some respond to the programs within a few days or weeks. It also doesn’t offer any guarantees, but specialists, who can be psychologists, social workers, and general practitioners who are trained in this type of counseling, track the progress closely so treatment modifications can be implemented as soon as possible.
How Does the Procedure Work?
There are two ways on how someone can undergo parenting counseling. First, the parent may be referred by their doctor, psychologist, a prominent member of the community, school, or even workplace. Second, the parent personally seeks professional help.
Either way, a parent counselor meets the parent at the appointed time. He or she conducts a thorough interview to identify the main issue, gain a better understanding of the problem, and assess the current behavior and state of the parent. From there, the counselor can suggest a variety of programs that include:
- Co-parenting counseling
- Couples counseling
- Divorce adjustment therapy
- Anger management
- Substance abuse rehabilitation and counseling
At first, the parent counselor works with the parents or parent with the biggest issue. As the parents respond to the intervention, other members of the family such as the children may be invited to participate. In certain instances, parents are introduced to support groups so they can also learn from parents who have similar experiences as they do.
Counselors are expected to work with other professionals during the program including doctors.
Possible Risks and Complications
Just like in any counseling, parents may be forced to relive memories or issues that are painful. They may initially become uncomfortable or anxious to share them. Some may develop panic attacks or undergo depression.
There are also others who may be frustrated or feel hopeless especially if the results of the counseling programs are not immediately achieved. These feelings may eventually force them to avoid the program altogether, lose trust on the counselor, or not treat the program or therapy seriously.