All children seek the verbal or non-verbal feedback from the adults in their life to understand themselves. A caregiver can provide encouragement, hope and a vision of a positive future for youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior. I believe that putting these thoughts in writing makes it more sincere to the child and enables the youth the opportunity to re-read the information whenever needed. Please use your own language and make the letter as authentic as possible. Thanks in advance for your time and effort.
Here are five ideas about what to include in a letter:
1. Praise your child for the changes they have made with concrete examples; things you have noticed. Such as:
- Attending therapy
- Admitting to the problem
- Accepting their consequences
- Doing better at school or completing chores
- Putting forth effort, reading this letter for example
2. Briefly tell your child how you have accepted that they have made a mistake with their sexual behavior AND you believe they are capable to fix their wrong doing or learn from this event. (see handout of “What Caregivers Can Say” if you are stuck.
3. Encourage and support your child with physical and emotional needs. Please give one or two concrete examples of how you will be supportive. Perhaps:
- Attend family sessions and pay for appropriate therapy without complaining
- Have empathy for them, try to understand their thoughts and feelings, even if they haven’t completed treatment yet or you don’t “get it”.
- Show respect by listening to them, or leaving them alone, etc. etc.
- Change things in the home environment to encourage sexual respect and reduce objectification
4. You will guide your child to make good choices and do well in the future, such as:
- Stay committed to treatment or whatever else is needed in the future
- Helping your child to work out more issues in therapy
- Maintain the safety plan or supervision so they will have an opportunity to succeed, even though they don’t like it
- Provide more opportunities to do well in school or extra curricular activities
- Maintain hope for positive outcomes in the future “because you have so much potential”
5. Model taking responsibility if you have made a mistake or have a regret for your own behavior. Make sure you do not burden your child with your own problems or minimize their accountability for their own behavior. Show them that there is hope of being a better person in the future. Possible examples are:
- Under-reacting after disclosure of the problematic behavior such as not providing supervision or getting treatment right away
- Not providing appropriate sex education when it was needed in the past
- Not providing your child with treatment if it was needed in the past
- Making things worse by over reacting; thinking this was the end of the world (catastrophizing) or predicting failure
- Anything that has made this process, including court or treatment, longer or more complicated.
PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR THERAPIST OR YOUR CHILD’S THERAPIST FOR FEEDBACK ON THIS LETTER BEFORE YOU PRESENT IT TO YOUR CHILD. I KNOW YOUR GOAL IS TO HAVE THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME. THANK YOU.