Under the legal age to book therapy for yourself? And not sure how to ask your parents for their consent and help to book counselling?

My parents will never understand

This might be true. They might have no experience or understanding of mental health at this current time.

But they don’t need to understand your issue right now. They just need to understand you need help and that they need to help you.

So it becomes about how you communicate your needs to them.

How to talk to your parents and ask for help

So then how to talk to your parents about mental health?

1. Time it well.

Jumping a conversation on your parents when they are stressed or in a rush is just sabotaging any real result.

Pick a time when you know your parent will be relaxed and able to listen. Or actually book at time with them. You don’t have to make it a big deal and leave them to worry, just ask, for example, if you go could over a few practical things for an hour after dinner.

2. Be prepared.

The more prepared you are, the less your parent needs to think, the easier you make their decision and the less they can put it off.

Don’t just say you want counselling, know what kind of counselling you are interested in and produce a list of places to call with prices. Another idea is to present a list of marked websites where they can learn about counselling for teens, or offer them brochures.

If you know you'll be nervous and forget what to say, practise what you'll say in advance, or write some key points on a sticky note to guide you.

3. Be exact but speak their language.

‘I am feeling kind of low’ is honest and useful. But for your parents to truly understand what you are going through, more detail can help.

But remember that using words they don't understand might just confuse them.

"I feel tired in the morning, I can’t focus on school, and my moods are quite negative, and I also have a lot of racing negative thoughts", might work. "Gender dysphoria is giving me emotional dysregulation" might just make their eyes glaze over.

4. Focus on the benefits.

Parents who hate spending money might balk at the idea of paying for your therapy. Make it clear the benefits make it a more than good investment.

“I feel it would help me make more friends and feel more accepted", or “Students I know who have tried therapy say it improved their grades and helped them have the self-esteem to apply for colleges" are some examples.

Do be honest. Nobody likes to be manipulated. If your parents sense you are lying to get what you want, it could all backfire. Focus on the benefits that you really think could help you.

5. Keep the focus on you.

Whatever you do, don’t slip into blame. “I wouldn’t be here asking if it wasn’t for your terrible parenting’ is more likely to get you grounded than helped, however true it might feel for you.

Also be wary of backhanded blame, like, “If you actually cared, you’d be helping.”

Avoid such temptation by keeping your sentences starting with “I”. I want, I feel, I’d appreciate it if……

6. Don’t expect them to understand.

Again, this is not about your parents understanding you right now.

We all want our parents to understand. But they are their own people with their own stressors and different life experiences and sometimes they just don’t.

Expecting them to understand will make you more prone to getting mad at them and derailing the conversation.

So no, you don’t need to explain gender dysphoria or borderline personality disorder in this exact conversation. Keep the focus on getting permission and budgetary support.

It can even help to let them know they are off the hook. “I don’t expect you to understand, it’s okay if you don’t, if you feel overwhelmed by what I am telling you. Maybe it’s a lot or not what you expected. But I’d really appreciate it if you could help me get therapy.”

7. Go for timed results, not instant ones.

If your parent is hedging, or seems lost, and it’s pretty clear they don’t want to respond, instead of pressuring them? Give them time.

But make that time exact so the conversation doesn’t get buried and they can’t keep putting off a response.

“I can imagine you need some time to think about this. How about three days, could that work? Could we agree that you’ll give me your answer by Friday end of day, say 5pm? “

8. Don’t let them make it all about them.

Have a parent who is always in victim mode? Prepare for them trying to steal your thunder by making it all about them. “You are saying I’m a bad parent, it’s true, I’m hopeless,” and out their tears come.

Avoid this by using the broken record technique. This means constantly repeating the same thing. Don’t react or dispute what they are just saying, just keep repeating what you want.

  • “Ok, but look, I am really wanting to see a therapist can you agree to sign a consent form?”
  • “Do you think you could sign a consent form and I will book a session today?”
  • “This is just about you signing a consent form and agreeing to help fund my sessions, okay?”

9. Don’t talk to a parent if it endangers your wellbeing.

Sometimes our parents are the reason we need therapy in the first place and simply aren’t a safe space.

If your parent is at all aggressive, abusive, or volatile, if they’ll manipulate you or expose you if you dare ask for help? They are not the right person to talk to.

In this case it’s time to look at other options. Talk to a counsellor at school or your GP and explain that you don’t feel you can safely ask your parent for their consent and see what help they can offer you.

When in doubt, reach out

Also note that there are free, confidential helplines for young people where you can talk by phone, email, or chat. If you are in need of immediate help or someone to talk to, consider contacting:

Childline (0800 1111) 24 hours a day, every day of the year, emergency calls only after 1 a.m.  The number won’t show up on the phone bill.

HOPELineUK (0800 068 41 41, or text 07786 209 967) 10am to 10pm weekdays and 2pm to 10pm weekends and 2-5pm holidays. A crisis hotline for teens who are feeling suicidal.

CALM (0800 58 58 58) 5 to midnight, all year round. The Campaign Against Living Miserably is for you if you are a young man aged 15+ who is feeling depressed.

FRANK (0300 123 6600, SMS at 82111) 24 hrs, 365 days a year. Frank offers friendly, confidential drugs advice if you are worried about your drug use.

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