3 Benefits of Family Counseling for children with ASD
Parents of children with ASD say that raising their children is one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Finding out the different ways your child’s brain is wired and seeing them connect with others, sometimes after many failed attempts, can be exhilarating.
On the other hand, families with children that have ASD are also prone to higher chances of depression, burnout, and anxiety. With limited time and resources, it is easy for parents to feel stressed out and overwhelmed with the needs of their children.
This is why we at Bright Achievements highly recommend family counseling. While so much time and energy can and should be spent on the child with ASD, the supporting family members, including siblings, need to find ways to cope with the additional stress.
When your child is first diagnosed, it is common for families to go through a period of grieving. “Diagnosis or not, the grief is very real. Often, an understanding of the grief stages, and the knowledge that grief is cyclical, helps parents adjust. Everyone reacts differently to grief, and how one reacts has a great deal to do with what happened and whether they’ve dealt with it appropriately.” (Source)
Three Primary Benefits of Family Counseling
1. Family stress and discord can exacerbate behaviors in ASD children
All children, particularly children with ASD, need their environments and caregivers to be steady and stable. If stress has you yelling at your child one day and depressed/despondent the next, it’s even more challenging for your child to regulate their own emotions while also responding to the severe changes in your own. Family counseling can help you recognize your triggers, meet your own needs, and have more emotional stability to serve your family to the best of your ability.
Siblings of children with ASD have their own issues that can be discussed at family counseling. They can be stressed from being the interpreter for the child with ASD, jealous of their sibling for receiving more parental attention, and struggle with feeling embarrassed about their sibling’s outbursts around their peers.
Parents of children with ASD have higher rates of divorce and marital discord. It’s vital for you, now more than ever, to stay connected with your partner. You need time to communicate your thoughts and feelings positively to stay on the same page. Family counseling can be an excellent time to start this process, and your therapist can even help you sort through different communication methods that can help your marriage stay strong and intact.
2. Stress management: triggers and techniques
When you can manage your stress, your family will benefit. Just like how flight attendants tell us to put our oxygen masks on first, we need to meet our own basic human needs first before meeting those of others. Only then can we effectively engage in our marriage and parenting relationships.
For example, many parents go days without adequate sleep, nutrition, or hydration. Being hungry, thirsty, or tired can trigger both physical and mental stress. If you are already irritable and then your child with ASD acts out, you are less likely to keep your cool and remember the steps to your child’s behavior plan.
Children are remarkably perceptive and responsive to their caregiver’s emotional state. Family counseling will help you and your family learn each individual’s stress triggers and how to cope with them effectively. As a parent, you set the “emotional temperature” of your home. You’ll be wonderfully surprised at how learning to handle your stress can help your child manage theirs.
3. Break negative family cycles; begin positive cycles.
Many times when a family begins counseling, they are stuck in a negative cycle. The family is burnt out on stress, so they don’t communicate respectfully, which causes more relational stress, leading to more discord. It’s a cycle that continues in a downward spiral.
Family counseling can untangle the relational strife, give each person a chance to express their feelings, and help families stop repeating negative cycles.
“When family members are anxious or depressed, they may be less able to access effective treatments. Furthermore, strained family environments may lead autistic children to act out more and limit their ability to make developmental progress. As a result, stress on the family may increase further, creating a negative cycle.” (Source)
Family counseling can start to spin the wheels of positive family cycles. Therapists get to have an unbiased perspective on each individual and the family as a team. They can help support individuals in addressing their unique strengths and weaknesses while also utilizing those traits to help the family come together as a whole. Your therapist will work towards strengthening marital, sibling, and parental relationships.
A last note
While having a child with ASD does come with added stressors, your unique child can also bring out special qualities of your family that would otherwise be absent. “As the strengths of autistic children begin to shine through, the positive impact on the whole family creates an even more nurturing and positive environment for growth and development.”
Schedule your first family counseling session today at: www.brightachievements.com