Krisanna Jeffery
Registered Clinical Counselor, B.S.W, M.Ed


Parents: Don’t Let Your Kids Be Your Therapist! 


            Over the course of this column, I have often referred to the various creative ways that we humans find to avoid looking honestly at ourselves.  

 Well lately, another common strategy keeps coming to my attention. It involves the way we can focus on our children to avoid focussing on ourselves. During infancy, intense focus is necessary. But if we aren’t careful, it can become a lifetime habit. This habit can be a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for more difficult and fundamental personal issues of our own. 

For example, a parent may come to counselling to discuss how their child’s behavior is out of control. They will usually find it quite easy to talk about this topic because many of us would rather talk about our children (or anyone else), then ourselves. We feel less vulnerable doing this.  

Obviously, in many families, problems with the children stem from problems with the parents. Unfortunately, problems with parents may be considered  “too risky” to look at. This factor can make it very difficult to actually help “problem” children. 

 Many, of our children have unknowingly become the scapegoats for their families. The scapegoat is the child whose behavior draws attention away from the real problem. (family dysfunction, tensions, or secrets) This intention is purposeful but unconscious. The scapegoat will usually be described, as “acting out” in some way and easily becomes the center of attention. Many families have one. All of you know some! 

This child begins to believe very early in life that it’s intrinsically bad. Of course, they don’t understand that they are simply providing a function within the family dynamic. Often, that function is to draw the tension away from the conflicted parental relationship. In cases like this, unless a couple is willing to risk looking at themselves, the child’s behavior is not likely to change. 

Another fairly common example of a parental problem looking like the child’s problem, would be the child who misbehaves because of the parents inability to be assertive and set limits.  

We have all seen children of all ages, unconsciously (but purposefully), push parents with intolerable behaviors practically begging the parent to set the limit for them. In these cases, the parent’s lack of assertiveness and boundaries will show up in the child very early. Whose problem is this? 

Our child’s behavior can be a reflection of our own buried issues. While seeking help for our children’s problems, we don’t want to forget to look at ourselves. Is there a lesson there for us? Continued curiosity and conscious personal growth on your part as parents will go a long way to helping your children.  

While it’s true that some children have problems, which are not related to family dynamics, it’s also true that many are.  Do your own work as individuals and couples. Don’t wait for your children to manifest problems as clues to the work that you need to do. Just choose a path for personal and relationship growth and get travelling. Don’t make your kids be your therapist!


For more information, please contact Krisanna Jeffery at
1348 Gabriola Dr. Parksville, BC
Canada V9P 2X8

Tel (250) 951-2299 between 9-5 Pacific
fax (250) 947-9920 anytime

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Copyright 2003 - 2004    

Krisanna Jeffery