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Can social media be a substitute for therapy?

With social media therapists and mental health gurus at almost every parent’s fingertips online, many are finding it easier to access solutions to their everyday parenting challenges. They often subscribe to newsletters and engage in recent posts related to parenting tips, many times sharing how it directly relates to their current situation within the home.

But can that be enough?

Is a quick reel on why gentle parenting can help your child’s development or a carousel post on ways to respond to your child when they whine a proper substitute for a real-life conversation with a professional? Let’s dive into both sides and see what we land on.

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Parent Coach, and someone who shares parenting information online, I noticed a trend with parents over the last year and a half. Many people were having a hard time finding therapists with availability to see their children or get their concerns addressed in real life. There was also a large uptick of professionals offering advice online and even one’s who landed segments on day time television and news. With both of these combined, a growing number of parents began to follow therapists, coaches, and influencers with strong parenting beliefs to get their questions answered via social media platforms.

Is this enough, though, to truly get the support needed to change your children’s (and even your own) behavior? Let’s first start with some real benefits and positives associated with online support.

Having a community that is easy to access is huge when it comes to parenting and support. When we surround ourselves with similar people and messaging, we truly absorb it. For many, having weekly emails that discuss re-parenting yourself and breaking the generational cycle on top of daily posts about keeping your cool when your child is losing it can really have lasting benefits. It can help parents check themselves before they react and work towards shifting inherent beliefs that they were raised with. With common messaging and working towards small goals each day, parents can begin to have a few tools and understanding in their pockets. This can really help children as well because when their parents are calm, predictable, and supportive, they do better.

It is also amazing that we’re able to have these conversations and build communities with like-minded people. By sharing stories, we’re normalizing the experience. The “Instagram V.S Reality” trend grew so much because we like to see that other people (including celebs and influencers) are just as normal as us; no perfection, just real and raw. So when the professionals share that they sometimes struggle with yelling and a messy house, or the topic of miscarriages is covered, or parents are commenting that they are resonating with a post, it develops an understanding that what you are going through is normal and okay. This aids us in not feeling alone or isolate as a parent.

A huge win when it comes to raising littles IMO!

The questions that I raise when it comes to accessing all of the strategies online are:

Are parents able to identify and implement the strategies properly?

Do people really have the skill set to read a post and try it at home on their child “alone” (since they can’t always go back to the OP and follow up with direct guidance)?

What do they do when things don’t go as planned and their kiddo pushes back or the behavior continues?

As people, we often rate ourselves higher when it comes to how well we think we will do on a task. So, if we are asked how well we can guess something, most people will say they will be able to guess it correctly at a higher-than-average rate. That being said, most parents who are following the online tips and tricks may think they are implementing it correctly or picking and choosing what they need to do to address their child’s behavioral concern. The downfall, however, is that since they are not trained to diagnose or read the situation and it’s compounding factors, they may not be going about it in the most effective way. Meaning, when we have a child who is screaming and hitting and the post said to “reflect and validate feelings” but it does not deescalate the child, then what?

What may be lacking is all of the other factors that go into this situation that a professional who has developed a relationship with you could sort through. When we have a real relationship with someone who we are working with, we are able to discuss and create a plan for the exact needs of the situation and members within your home.

What the online posts and newsletters lack is the parent’s ability to share the recent stressors within their home, have that professional guide and explore the most effective way to address the concern based on their temperament/personality/and daily factors. These compounding things make a difference when it comes to how we respond and support our child.

Continually, when we work closely with a professional in real life, they are able to assist us in understanding exactly what the behavior communicates, identify patterns and hand hold us in the direction that we want to go. When the parent brings their expertise to the table, along with the professionals understanding, a beautiful dynamic is formed. With both, a stronger and quicker solution can be found.

So what the consensus then?

Social media can shed a light on very important and helpful topics when it comes to mental health, behavioral concerns, and ways to parent. It is not, however, a replacement for tackling these challenges with a professional in real life.

These platforms should absolutely be used to gain an understanding and begin the conversation with yourself about personal beliefs when it comes to raising your children and add a few quick tips into your pocket. But they should not end there. No parent needs to be doing it “alone” and a response in the comments section under a post should not suffice for advice.

Working with a therapist or accredited coach 1:1 can cultivate clear and personalized support that not only helps a parent feel more empowered and confident, but also directly helps their child with their specific and individualized need. Afterall, not every person and family is alike.

So go ahead and keep subscribing and following the people that resonate with you and your beliefs. But if you notice that you’re feeling a bit lost, your child isn’t responding in the way that seems right to you, and you’re in need of a step up, then it’s time to find the right professional to have a real-life relationship with!

If you are interested in my 6 week parenting program, Parenting Simplified, click here to check it out! With group and individual coaching calls, educational trainings, and access to my online course, you'll get the direct and clear support you need. In "real" life :)

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