Don’t We All Need Therapy?

I know that a lot of parents joke about inevitably forcing their children into therapy as adults—trying to cope with the psychological damage we inflict on them when they are young. I often think the same thing whenever I find myself yelling irrationally at my children—especially my daughter—over their messy rooms, their seemingly constant fighting, or purely out of sheer frustration. The truth is, I really don’t want either of my children to end up in therapy—and if they do find themselves there, I especially don’t want it to be because of me. As I have mentioned before, I’ve spent many a lunch break sitting in my therapist’s office, working through any number of issues: feeling stretched too thin with working full time and having two young children; the frustrations of managing a career that is often not in my control; dealing with the stress of bills piling up during the tough times . . . I could fill a page with the number of things I worked on, talked through, sometimes cried about, and generally learned to cope with during those sessions—the least of which was probably my relationship with my father. Yes, I have spent years trying to find a way to silence the negative voices in my head that were planted there by my father—whether intentionally or not—in order to be a better wife, a more understanding mother, and a self-confident woman. So, I know what it truly means to have a parent send you to therapy, and I’ll do just about anything to make sure my children don’t also end up on a therapist’s couch. Unfortunately, I sometimes fear that it may already be too late . . .

Sometime in the last year, my daughter announced to me that she never wants to have children. At first, I didn’t think much of the statement, especially since she was only ten. Then, each time she saw a baby on TV or a mother with her children, she would remind me of her future plans, which most definitely did not include children. I finally asked her why she didn’t want children, and she simply said, “Kids are annoying.” I was stunned, shocked, horrified. How on earth had she come to the conclusion that children were annoying? I suddenly flashed to all the times I said, “Stop being so annoying!” or “You kids are annoying me!” along with many other variations on the same theme. Yep, I had planted the thought in my daughter’s head, and somehow changed her perception of the world, possibly forever. Up until that point, I thought of myself as someone who would never insult their children, never put them down, or intentionally make them feel bad, but I had done just that. I immediately wanted to make it up to her, to take all those instances of my use of the word “annoying” out of her memory for good, but unfortunately, that’s not possible. Instead, I explained to her that the greatest joy I have in my life is being their mother, and that I wouldn’t change anything. Now all I can do is hope that this might be taken off the list of potential reasons for therapy, but we’ll have to see . . .

This recognition of my own responsibility—my own culpability—in raising children who are free from the issues that would lead them to therapy is something that influences how I parent them. I don’t think I can really catch all of the potential damage before it makes an impact—I may not even be aware of all I do or how my kids see me. What I do know is that for every negative aspect of my personality (I am moody, impatient, quick-tempered at times) I try to counteract it with something positive (I am silly, lighthearted, affectionate, loving, engaging). My hope is that, years from now, if either of my children find themselves sitting in a therapist’s office, the memories that they will share will be of a mother who loved them—and although not perfect—never made them question my intention to be the best mother I could be to them.

My advice to my daughter is the same advice I tell myself all the time: be aware of your actions, of your words, and how they are perceived by the people around you—especially by the people you love. The last thing you want to do in life is to hurt someone so much that they need to seek professional help to cope with the negative feelings left behind. And, if you look back at your own actions and see a time when you could have said or done something differently, it’s never too late to try to make amends.


Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

Join the Conversation


  1. Don’t beat yourself up! Yes, our children pick up on what we are saying and internalize things. You are aware of that and are a much better Mom because of it. Your blog is very insightful and you are being the best Mom you can be. You’ll make some mistakes. Sounds like you are correcting the ones that show up so give yourself a pat on the back for that and go forward. Have a great day!

  2. i agree. don’t beat yourself up. we all do the best we can. when we see something that we can do differently – we change it. that’s all we can do. you can’t be aware of every little thing. the great thing you’ve done is to recognize what may be an issue and tried to address it with love. can’t really ask for more than that.

  3. your daughter is pretty. 🙂 I’d say, often children are pretty much more resilient than we think. Being a mum who works part time myself, I understand the stress we go through, managing children, work and household. It’s only natural that we find ourself shouting and yelling on certain days. but in the end, if we sit down and talk with our children and they know we love them, they’ll turn out ok. I enjoyed reading this post.

  4. Ohhhh mommy guilt.
    I know I’m not a perfect mom, but I do my best. I always remind myself and others that if you do your best, there’s nothing else you can do. You don’t always say the right things, but if in that moment it’s all you had, so be it. You’re there, you’re thinking, you’re trying – you’ve got so many people I personally know beat already.

  5. I was at my niece’s soccer game when my oldest was just a baby, and I overheard another mother tell her son to stop annoying her. She told him several times that he was annoying, and I swore I would never tell my children that. Well, you know what often happens to moms who swear things like that…this summer, I caught myself telling my children to leave me alone because they were annoying me! It happens.

    Visiting from #CommentHour!

  6. Hi, it’s Just One Donna stopping by for Facebook Friday. I used to be so worried about everything I said and did because I didn’t want to “damage” my children. Finally, after being uptight for too long, I realized all I could do was my best. I realized that other’s (including my children) interpretations of my words and deeds are owned by them and not by me. If I do the best I can, with the best intentions, that is good enough.

  7. A quick preface: All my children HAVE been in therapy. I think it is one of the wisest things we can do for ourselves AND for our children.
    And I have also laughed about them (in the future) discussing my poor parenting skills with a future therapist.
    My children like to test things with me, first, as perhaps your daughter is doing. At ten, “kids” are annoying. Sheesh! Who wants to have a littler kid around, anyway? There is plenty of time for her to change her mind and plenty of time for YOU to feel better about how your actions speak of love and pleasure at Mommying instead of the inevitable frustration that comes with this favored job of ours.
    As always, love reading!

  8. I have been in therapy and have traced some of my “issuses” to my childhood. While tracing these issues back and understanding what may have cause me to think the way I do both positive and negative has in no way made me dobut my parents love for me. If your kids ever end up in any therapy they will probably have a similar experience of tracing boh positive and negative aspects of their personality back to you because you are human and they are human and it is impossible to be human without some negatives. But don’t worry. I’m sure they will never doubt your love for them and if they do just refer them to this post 🙂 Stopping by from flashback friday.

  9. I as sit here and think about this post it really made me sit back and think to myself omg I have done this. Not on purpose this I know. I have a daughter who just turned 12 on 8/6 and a son who is d8. They do such silly things that really want to take me to my very unhappy place. Like you I get annoyed, moody, cranky, and sometimes cant control it and their antic so not make matters any better. However, like you ,mentioned as long as we know and change what we put into their minds. Thank you so much for bringing me back to reality.

    Ms. Positivity

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