DBT Techniques to Help Your Kids at Home

To say that I am a fan of DBT would be putting it mildly. DBT therapy is one of my favorite types of therapy, because it gives people constructive tools to use in their day to day life, in a way that talk therapy doesn't necessarily do. I've done rounds of DBT therapy and my therapist is qualified in DBT as well, and it has changed my life, and I use it regularly with my kids. Here are some ways that you can use DBT skills with your children, but these things also are quite helpful for adults as well.

DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is a type of counseling that can help children and teenagers manage their strong emotions. It works by combining two different skills:
  1. Using mindfulness to understand and accept their difficult feelings
  2. Using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to help them change their negative behavior and feelings
Children who often feel, think, and behave in extremes can be greatly helped through DBT. For example, children who believe everything is horrible can learn that not everything is bad, kids who act quickly without thinking can learn to consider the consequences of their actions, and teens who struggle to move on from negative feelings can learn to just let some things go.

DBT for children and adolescents is broken down into three parts:
  1. Individual therapy: One-to-one therapy sessions with a DBT counselor when your child learns the skills they need to manage their feelings and behavior
  2. Group therapy: Your child workshops with other children to help them develop the skills they learned in individual therapy
  3. Family therapy: You and your child discuss how things are going at home and the therapist helps everyone relate to each other
For children, family therapy replaces phone coaching. However, when the counseling is for a teenager, phone coaching is often included. This extra part of DBT gives your child the chance to call their therapist for immediate assistance when they need help or are thinking of hurting themselves.

DBT has a great success rate among children and adolescents in comparison to other types of treatment. If your child is struggling to manage their emotions and seems to experience them much more strongly than their peers, booking a session with a DBT therapist could be just what you need to get your family back on track.

Online DBT

With the great accessibility of telehealth and being able to talk to a therapist anywhere, anytime with a smart device, online DBT is an excellent option for many families. With widely different schedules and commitments, it can be difficult for families to attend physical therapy together. This isn’t the case with online therapy.

By choosing to work with an online DBT therapist remotely, you have much more choice and freedom. You and your child can communicate with your therapist from anywhere, as long as you’ve got a smartphone with access to the internet. The only thing you need to agree on is a time.

Online therapy also gives you a greater choice of therapists to work with. Instead of being limited to the ones in your local area, you can choose from all the DBT therapists licensed to practice within your state — without having to physically travel to see them.

3 DBT tactics you can use at home

Not everyone is ready to start therapy, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re struggling with the taboo over going to therapy, or maybe you’ve got to convince your other family members it’s something you want to do.

Until you’re ready to talk to a trained DBT therapist, here are three techniques you can try at home to help your child manage their emotions and behavior:

1. Square breathing

Square breathing is one of the simplest and most effective DBT skills which can help both children and adults. It works like this:

Breathe in while counting to 4

Hold your breath while counting to 4

Breathe out while counting to 4

Hold your breath while counting to 4

Square breathing is best used for managing stress when your child is feeling angry, overwhelmed, or anxious. It gives them a chance to think and consider the consequences of their actions before reacting.

2. Riding the wave

Riding the wave encourages a child to allow themselves to experience an emotion without reacting to it. Anger is a great example. Instead of trying to suppress angry feelings, riding the wave teaches children to recognize anger and ride it out until it naturally subsides.

Ask your child to visualize themselves riding the wave. The wave is the negative emotion they’re experiencing. Their job is to simply ride the wave until it reaches the beach and disappears.

3. Radical acceptance

Radical acceptance can be difficult for a child to grasp at first. But when they do, it’s one of the most powerful and rewarding DBT skills they’ll develop. Radical acceptance teaches that it’s important for a child to accept a situation how it truly is.

This doesn’t mean your child has to like the situation. Instead, it’s about them acknowledging that the current situation is out of their control and they need to decide how they’re going to react to it.

A helpful example is divorce. A child cannot change the fact that their parents are separating. Through radical acceptance, they can accept that they don’t have control, allowing them to take a step back and take the situation as it comes.

Square breathing, riding the wave, and radical acceptance are three useful DBT skills you can use to help your kids manage their emotions at home. But be aware — DBT family therapy is a challenge and it’s not always one you can win on your own.

If you’ve been trying your best to help your child and you’re not getting anywhere, it’s time to seek the help of a professional. Family therapists are trained at reaching out to and engaging with children in a way you simply can’t. You might know your kid better than anyone else in the world, but it takes a trained professional with years of expertise and the required skills to really get through to them.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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