When a parent contacts me to arrange counseling for their adolescent, I explain that there will be times that the parents will be a part of the counseling session. It’s always difficult to talk with the parents about parenting styles. There’s plenty of guilt when it comes to parenting in general; therefore, guilt and a little defensiveness is understandable when your child’s counselor says, “we need to talk about parenting.”

An article I read recently reinforced my belief in the importance of addressing parenting styles in the context of treating adolescent clients. This article focused on anxiety symptoms in children, but extrapolated the results to other psychological disorders. It appeared that higher maternal control and less paternal acceptance were associated with higher levels of anxiety symptoms in the adolescent. Those symptoms continued into young adulthood. The authors emphasized the importance of incorporating the parents into the treatment of the child to create effective change.

What does this mean to you as a parent? Extremes don’t work. If you are extremely “hands-off” and independent of your child or overly involved, the results are similar. I have found a combination of working with the adolescent on an individual basis and including the parents intermittently in therapy, very successful.

Reitman, D. & Asseff, J. (2010). Parenting practices and their relation to anxiety in young adulthood. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 565-572.