When a kid has an appointment with a mental health professional, the parent can prepare for peace and productivity.

Hello friends. I would love to know how you are all doing. How is school-at-home going for you? How are your kids handling things? What challenges are you coming up against these days?

This week’s topic may seem a little out of touch, as there are few in-person appointments happening these days. But the very word “prepare” gives the reason why tucking some pointers into our toolboxes now is good idea. “Pre” literally means “before.” So the time to think through an upcoming appointment is well before the moment you enter the building.

Appointments for our kids can be emotionally charged and intimidating. This is true whether we are at the beginning of a journey or the kid has been struggling with mental or emotional health for a while. How can we make the appointments as effective and helpful as possible? Also important: how can we parents navigate the appointment while guarding our peace?

Before the Appointment:

  • Write down a list of topics/questions you want to address.  
  • Check over medications: do you need renewed prescriptions? Are there any changes you think should be made?
  • Mentally prepare. There might be distressing surprises. Your kid might make you the object of blame.
  • Bring a pen you like. (There are always more forms.) This one little thing makes me feel better. For you, it might not be a pen. It might be your water bottle, or a hard candy, or your comfortable shoes.

During the appointment: 

  • Know the provider will probably speak with your kid alone first.
  • Be honest and share anything you think will be helpful.
  • Remember it’s not your appointment; save your therapy for your therapist.
  • Don’t press the provider or your kid to divulge what they talked about in private. The provider will tell you (if your kid is a minor) if she believes there is danger, but most will otherwise keep confidentiality if the kid requests it.
  • Respect the provider’s professional opinion and expertise, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or disagree with a course of treatment.
  • Don’t answer for your kid or your spouse.
  • Listen to everyone in the room with the goal of understanding. It’s easy to get defensive; try not to be overtaken by that feeling.

Can you help expand this list? What do you do to prepare for an appointment? Are there things you wish you had done/known? Please share your thoughts to help everyone else.