You Are Not A Bad Parent Because Your Child Is In Therapy

It's our job as parents to prioritize our children's mental health and if that means taking them to therapy, that's more than fine.

Dad and son at therapy Hmeluns | Canva / NoSystem images | Getty Images Signature

The first time I saw a therapist, I was in my twenties. I was an adult who made the decision, on my own, to talk to someone. This person didn't know me outside of a professional setting, and that is exactly what I needed. I couldn't sort through all the stress in my life alone and I wanted someone totally unbiased to talk to.

Seeking therapy never seemed like a weakness to me. Instead, it was pretty empowering. And then, I had kids.


Just like every other mom in the world, I gave birth to perfect human specimens. They are smart, good-looking, charming, and every other thing I ever wanted in my life. But there is just one thing: they aren't perfect.

Just like their parents and everyone else in the world, they struggle every once in a while.  And sometimes, those struggles have been way beyond my parental pay grade. They needed more emotional care than my husband and I understood.

So, what did we do? We sought out professionals.

RELATED: 10 Signs That Tell You It's Definitely Time To Go To Therapy

No, it wasn't necessarily my child’s choice to see a therapist like it was for me, but as the mother, it was my job to do what was best for them. If they broke a bone or had an itchy rash or high fever, I would take them to the doctor. The same is true for their mental health. Just like I can't diagnose them with a physical illness, I am also not qualified to speculate on their emotional well-being. But, thankfully, a lot of people are.


It's OK to say, "I can't do this all on my own." Honestly, it's totally normal and a pretty comforting moment of clarity when you realize it. Trust me, I've had that moment more than once. Sure, at first, I felt a bit embarrassed. I thought I was the worst mom in the world because I couldn't figure out why my child was anxious, angry, or unhappy. The guilt was palpable.

And even when I knew seeking professional help was the right thing to do, I waited. I thought just having the number was enough, even if I didn't dial it.

And then, one day, I had this strange epiphany during a complete emotional breakdown in my car over everything going wrong in my motherhood journey.

I was sobbing. I felt like I was drowning, and I thought, "You need to see somebody about this." Then there was this a-ha moment. It wasn't just me who needed a little help. My child did, too. They deserved to be emotionally well as much as I did. So, I made a call for each of us.


Was it their favorite thing in the world? No, not really. I am pretty sure those first few minutes alone with the therapist were dedicated to telling them how horrible of a mother I am, that therapy doesn't work and they didn't need to be there. You know, the usual stuff.

And I get it because it wasn't their choice. It was mine. But, it was a bit of a sorry, not sorry moment. Even if they are choices that our kids never understand, we have to make some decisions for them, whether they like it or not.

RELATED: The Simple Way To Tell If Your Child Has Anxiety (Or Is Just Stressed)

So many parents, myself included, feel like they are total failures because they can't "fix" their kids. And I think that's part of the problem. Our kids don't need to be fixed. They need to be guided, molded and helped.


Therapists are incredible people who can aid parents in doing all those things. If you are willing to put in the time, it can be life-changing in the best possible way.

I told my therapist that I was writing this essay and shared with her that it was partly self-serving and made me feel better about my own choices as a mom, but mostly because I want other parents to realize that they aren't alone, and they really are doing a good job.

She said something that struck me as both comforting and pretty darn profound: "The more loving, stable adults you have in the life of your kid, the better off they are." That is exactly what I want my children to have: lots of loving, stable adults. And I don't care where those influences come from. It may be me and my husband, their grandparents, teachers, coaches, the mailman, or the checker at the grocery store. If they are people who have a loving and positive impact on my children, they are welcome.

RELATED: Child Therapist Uses A Specific Scene From The Movie 'Inside Out' To Show Parents & Kids The Wrong Way To Respond When Someone's Sad


There is such a terrible stigma in our world when it comes to mental health. People don't want to talk about it, particularly regarding their kids. Getting mental health treatment is not a weakness. You are not a bad parent because your child sees a therapist or takes medication to help them get through their days. We need to shift the paradigm. Can we please start to praise the moms and dads championing mental health and stop shaming them?

You have not failed at anything simply because you make your children's mental and emotional well-being a priority. Honestly, you are wining in the parenting game.

Yes, your child may resent you for a while. That's okay.


Yes, people might talk about you behind your back. Let them.

Yes, you may feel a pit in your stomach and a tear in your eye when you make that phone call but don't hang up. No, they may not ever thank you even though therapy helps them. No, you never have to explain your parenting choices to anyone. No — and this is the most significant no — you will never regret prioritizing your child and their mental health. It may be a tough decision, but it could be the most important one you ever make.

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

RELATED: The Most Important Question To Ask To Find The Right Therapist


Colleen Dilthey Thomas is a mother of four and a writer who offers her life experience and a bit of wisdom to a variety of parenting sites. You can find her work on Scary Mommy, POPSUGAR, HuffPost, INSIDER, Her View From Home, CafeMom, Baby Chick, and more.