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Our 15-year-old daughter has been seeing a counsellor, as advised by her school, for behavioural issues. Sometimes the counsellor calls us in too, sometimes it’s just my wife, or just her and our daughter together. The problem is that my wife often comes home and repeats some of the things that the counsellor has told her, or questions our daughter about some things that she has confided in the counsellor. This leads to a fight and soon our daughter will refuse to go to the counsellor. This has happened before. Please advise if our handling of the situation is wrong and how to stop this relaying of information. Should we change the counsellor?

It appears that your wife does not have the maturity to handle what she learns in counselling in a sensitive and forward-moving fashion. By using some of the information that the counsellor relays to her as material to question the child, she is certainly sabotaging the counselling process between the girl and her counsellor. The counsellor probably tells her things so that she can modify her own behaviour or attitude or handling of the child, but what is the point of it all if the child is made to feel worse, and begins to feel that what she tells the counsellor is not confidential?

Perhaps the counsellor should first clarify with the child, which of the things that they speak about, can be communicated to the parents for a better interpersonal understanding. The counsellor would also have to spell out clearly to the mother, that what the child reveals is not ammunition for the mother to go bombard the child with. In this situation, it probably makes more sense for the counsellor to talk to the mother and child together, so that issues that need to be communicated, happen in the counselling chamber itself, rather than be twisted at home.

The mother of this child may have to go to another counsellor or psychiatrist, to work out her own feelings of anger, rejection and dejection that she may be facing vis-à-vis her daughter. If she is unable to understand that this is not a contest between her and her daughter, but a genuine attempt at solving problems, then it is likely that she has personal problems that need resolving, outside of the child-and-counsellor relationship.

The current counsellor too needs to recognize that her attempts to interpret and communicate what the child sees as problem areas with the mother are not working. In fact, the child is being further alienated and misunderstood by the mother, and her trust in the counsellor is being compromised.

It is a tricky and unfortunate situation, when a parent is not able to receive feedback from his or her child’s counsellor and respond to it constructively. The current destructive cycle that your wife goes through on hearing anything negative from the child via the counsellor is doing no one any good, and the quicker you get the counsellor to change her strategy as well as get your wife some psychiatric or counselling help, the better for you all. If you can, in any way, make your wife understand that the process your 15-year-old is going through is not about blaming the mother but about building broken bridges.

Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting and ABCs Of Parenting.

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