Family Therapy: My Boys thought I bribed the Therapist

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

I loved the psychologist that did the boys' ADHD evaluations so much that I immediately thought she would be a good fit for family therapy. I've been wanting to start family therapy for a long time.

The main reason: Between managing their ADHD and the hormonal roller coaster they are riding I do feel overwhelmed. I can't tell you how many people said to me, "yeah but this is a hard age..." Of course it is. I couldn't agree more. But why not explore a different set of tools to help them navigate through this difficult chapter?

I'm also dealing with my own healing and felt I needed more resources.

I saw comments from the psychologist in the boys' evals such as, "people-pleaser" or "self-conscience" or "cares what people think."

It didn't surprise me to see those comments but it made me realize that advising them to not give much thought or energy to "that person" wasn't working. I needed to get other ideas to help them through their insecurities.

I'd rather start therapy when small issues arise. That way, no one is singled out and we can learn together how to communicate and support one another better or/and learn what role we play in an ongoing issue to prevent it from blowing up.

It was important that my husband was on board because I wanted us to be a united front but more importantly I wanted him to model that it's ok for men to go therapy. It's ok to ask for help.

The day arrived and leading up to the virtual appointment I was getting eye-rolls, groans, bickering, attitudes - you name it. I kept thinking, man, this is going to be embarrassing. But then I thought, I'm sure this lady has seen it all! And at least we've shown up!

So, the five of us nervously squished together on our couch - our laptop perched across from us - as we started our first virtual family therapy session.

I started out the session explaining the difficulty we were having with their disrespectful behavior when e-learning began over the spring quarter: missing assignments, not following bed time rules, sneaking on phone at night, lying, not doing chores - THE LIST WENT ON.

(Now I realize they were dealing with the pandemic, but clearly this behavior wasn't the best way to cope.)

The session was like driving in a rush in an unfamiliar neighborhood: You are paying attention to basic road signs but also looking around trying to see the street names, braking unexpectedly and nervously looking for a cop waiting to give you a ticket.

Having said that, there are some blurry parts. For example, I remember hearing M talk and feeling proud that he was speaking so bravely to the therapist about our family but I also remember trying to look like what he was saying wasn't bothering me. Because I could see him looking over at me and I wanted to make him feel as though he could speak freely.

However, at one point I closed my eyes and thought, please stop talking. Please. Please, stop talking - this therapist must think we are total whack jobs!

I looked at the time and calculated how many minutes remained.

Clearly my blinding, motherly love for M has kicked in to protect him because for the life of me I can't recall what the kid was spewing.

B decided to stand up on the arm of the couch while M was speaking. I'm trying to talk without talking because I didn't want to interrupt M. So I'm making these weird faces at B and he's acting like, he has NO IDEA what I could POSSIBLY be saying. As if it's totally normal to stand on the arm of the couch. I've never seen the kid do that in the 13 years we lived at that house. My husband tried to make faces but he's the most stone-faced person I've ever met. The only thing that moves on his face are his eyebrows and I've learned to read them. So from his eyebrows I know he's annoyed with B's behavior but no one else on the couch knows this.

After M was finished speaking, the therapist asked the boys what our house rules were and they all politely answered her.

"Oh, ok so it sounds like all of you know what the rules are then," she gently pointed out.

Next, she did the most glorious thing.

She began to tell the boys what my husband and I had been saying to the boys all along - almost word for word: why a self-care routine is necessary, why they should feed their still-developing brains knowledge, the importance of following rules, why sleep is so vital, why completing chores are important in the bigger scheme of life, etc.

It was beautiful.

I felt so validated and sane.

Tears quietly streamed down my cheeks.

The virtual session peacefully ended.

"So - what did you guys think?" asked my husband.

"Well you guys obviously bribed her to say all of those things to us," said B furrowing his brow SUPER ANNOYED and walked out of the house.

A and I had a good laugh and I scheduled the next appointment.

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