This is a story about Grace and what I have come to believe…
Grace was my first Client, a second-grader that led my path to a blessed counseling career.
When her teacher referred Grace to me, she was having a hard time behaving in class. She would forget to bring her homework to school, or bring in uncompleted homework. During lunch time, she would play with her food and not eat it like the rest of the kids. “She just cannot follow the rules.” Her teacher reported. At the same day I met the teacher, I met with her step-mom who had her hands full being six months pregnant and a toddler by her side. She shared how she has had Grace since she was three years old, and a year ago Grace’s biological mother visited her in school unexpectedly, and later got permission from Grace’s father to have a weekly visitation. She expressed, “After that she does not listen to me anymore… and she always wants her grandpa to feed her during meal times.”
I met with Grace once a week, at the same time and same location in her school. We had twenty two sessions over the course of one year, and that was the duration of her therapy. During every session, Grace can choose to play in front of me or talk about anything, and I respond and communicate with her as I see fit. In the beginning, she threw the garbage everywhere, asked me to carry her stuff so that she can play, grabbed spider web and put on my head, and followed other kids to climb a tree even though she just told me their teacher does not allow them to do so. Grace’s confusion about the rules and norms stemming from her family situation extended to other parts of her life, including school. She could not express her feelings and emotions in words and was acting them out. Gradually, there were good things that started to happen in our sessions. Grace started inviting me to share her breakfast, and as time went on, she let me have an equal opportunity to win her game. She no longer needed to be in absolute control, and was not afraid of losing. She also ignored other kids who asked her to do something she should not be doing at the time. She took care of her own stuff instead of neglecting it, and she throw away the garbage in the trash can without anyone asking her to. In the final session, she expressed her feeling by saying, “I do not want our time to be finished.”
I was informed by her teacher that Grace’s grades and behavior had improved in school. Her step mother held her new born baby and told me she was able to communicate with Grace, and Grace would help out around the house when asked to. When Grace felt sad, she started drawing and writing on her secret note book.
For many parents, there are feelings of frustration and anxiety when communication with their child is stuck. Some take a long time getting their child ready for school every day, repeatedly trying to stop the child from hiding snacks in the pocket, and feel helpless when their child become “unreasonably” aggressive or defiant. Parents have a hard time motivating their child to do certain things such as chores, homework, or stop fighting with a sibling. They question their own parenting skills and wonder what has happened to their child. I want to encourage all parents to continue seeing the grace in their relationship with their child.
Whatever the situation may be, whether it is being a single parent, divorced, mixed family or a traditional home, you as parents may find it difficult to manage your own life and the life of your child. There is an enormous amount of pressure for parents to provide the best care for your child. However, as a parent, you are irreplaceable and you have profound influence on your child, and it is OK to ask for help. Sometimes asking for help is doing what is best for you and your child.
I invite you to remember my experience with Grace, who showed me her enthusiasm and challenges so authentically. It was a blessing being with Grace. It is also a grace to her that someone was able to accompany her in her world, and walk with her through her confusion about her life. Like so many children in our community, like Grace, sometimes a child needs someone to accompany them through the rough times. I believe that every session is a time of walking together and experiencing God’s grace.
Julianne Lu, MA LMHCA