How to Tell Your Parents That You've Been Going to Psychotherapy
I think that we can all agree that not everyone in our parent’s age group has an open mind about addressing mental health issues. It’s either they lack education, stigmatize the matter, or simply uncomfortable about touching on the subject. And as the succeeding generation (A.K.A. their children,) we are caught between a rock and a hard place when we’re going through our unique inner battles without having the heart to tell our parents about it.
Most of us suffer in silence when we’re at home, but if you feel the urge to let your parents in on your mental health journey and you know that you’re safe to do so, then we’re here to hold your hand through it. It’s not going to be easy, so here are a few things to keep in mind once you decide to tell them that you’ve already taken steps to care for your mental wellbeing:
Share what it’s like to go through your mental health issue.
We know all too well how adults can reduce our mental health struggles into something that’s just “in your head.” If you think your parents won’t easily get it, try to explain specifically how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically once your anxiety (or any psychological disorder) hits. Do you experience helplessness, excessive worry, loneliness, or fear that turn into breakdowns or cause palpitations, stomach aches, and such? Perhaps if you give them precise details or scenarios, then they can further imagine how serious your mental health concern is.
Tell them that asking for help is a strength.
And because your condition isn’t something that you can just brush off with a good night’s sleep, tell them that you thought it’s best to seek help. Knowing when to ask for help is actually a strength and something that not many people can do. So, if you’ve managed to seek professional counsel, let your parents know that it’s a sign that you can be responsible for your own needs.
Use an analogy when explaining why you had to seek help.
Brace yourself when you tell them that you’re seeing a therapist, because their initial reaction may fall along the lines of thinking that you might be “crazy.” Of course, that’s not the case. So, to make them understand, compare going to therapy to going to the doctor when you’re physically hurt or unwell. It doesn’t mean that you’re irreparable or you have an out-of-this-world condition. It just means that you need professional advice on how to manage your health better.
Be honest about why you weren’t able to tell them earlier.
Another aspect that can perhaps put your parents off is how you kept it from them for a certain period of time. Well, you can never go wrong with honesty at this point. Just tell them that you were worried about their reaction or that you thought you could handle things on your own. But the good thing is that you found the courage to open up to them because you love and trust them, and that’s all that matters.
Update them about your current state.
Now that it’s all out in the open, you can further ease them into the idea of therapy by updating them on how it has affected your mental health so far. Tell them if there have been any changes, especially if they’re positive. Share your experience, what your therapist is like, and how they were able to help you. Fill them in on what you’ve been doing outside your therapy sessions to help your condition as well as the other people who have been supportive of you. This way, they’re rest assured that what you’re doing is what’s truly best for you.
Ask for what you need from them.
In therapy, you will realize the things that you need to do to be better. If there’s anything that your family can help you with, then it wouldn’t hurt to ask. If your issues directly concern them, perhaps, it may also be beneficial to request that they go to therapy with you upon the recommendation of your therapist. Whatever it is that you think can make your situation better, I’m sure your parents will be willing to do it with you.
It’s normal to keep your inner struggles from your parents. It’s also normal for them to have reactions or opinions that may not align with what you hope for. But speaking to them from an honest place is a good start – a brave start, even. Letting your parents in on your journey can be scary, uncomfortable, and tricky. But just know that when you already have them on board, your burden will surely feel a ton lighter. Keep fighting, warrior! We’re here for you!