Crying in Therapy: Important to Understand Why
For many parents, family members, and therapists, crying can be a big obstacle to overcome when teaching and working with a young child. While it may be difficult to manage this sort of behavior, it is important to understand why a child is upset as well as the things you can do in order to see his way of thinking. In my opinion, the key to handling this issue is to try to figure out where the child is coming from and be willing to view things from his perspective. In doing so, you will be able to tell the difference between when he is simply protesting something new, or if he is hurt and needs you to stop and assist him in his function.
Seeing from a child’s perspective
For this reason, it’s good to take a step back and observe your child. We often believe that since we are older and “wiser,” our primary goal is to teach a child about the things that we know and understand. However, every child is different, and each has his own dreams, wishes, and fears. In this respect, our first response should be to learn as much from him as he learns from us. The ability to understand a child becomes really important especially when you are working with him to improve his function. In response to unfamiliar situations or tasks, a child will often cry because he does not want to do them. This makes it important to know the difference between crying as a response to new experiences, or in response to actual injury. If he is really hurt, you will need to stop and find out what is happening. However, if this is not the case it is important to persist and continue with treatment.
Why is this the case, you may ask? If a child is only protesting, explaining things to him will be much more effective than stopping treatment every time he begins to cry. If you stop, he will automatically assume that crying will be the solution to stop you from making him do certain things. It is a self-defense mechanism. This is why you need to explain what, how and why he needs to do something in order for him to be able to understand. In this way, he will come to comprehend what is being taught and you will be able to continue with his treatment.
The effect of this approach
To demonstrate how effective an approach this is, I’ll tell you about one of my experiences with a young girl that had cerebral palsy. As I worked with her, I made sure to explain every function and its purpose to her for each new activity we did together. During the girl’s treatment, her mother told me, “You are the first therapist that she didn’t cry with.” My question to her was: did anyone talk to the girl and explain what she was supposed to do? When the mom said no, it was easy to understand the differences she saw in her child’s learning and behavior.
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