Dear Mom about to walk into my office for the very first time –

Please come in. You are here to tell me about your child, and you. I promise I will not judge. I promise to listen with a soft ear and a kind heart.

It is likely that you made this appointment weeks ago, maybe months, at a time when something was so big, so hard, that it prompted you to pick up the phone and call. I realize that things may have gotten worse since then. Or the crisis may have subsided and things may not seem so bad anymore. Whatever the reason, you came. I know it took courage.

Maybe you don’t even know how brave you are for walking into this room. You don’t know how much strength you’ll show in laying out your worries and fears and all the things that your child is struggling with. The hurts and pains they have (and your own) when they are angry, aggressive, or withdrawn. If they’re failing at school, or unable to make friends, or making friends too quickly but unable to complete their homework.

The anxiety, the depression, the overeating, the grief, the outbursts you will tell me your child has in an easy sort of way like it’s not really that bad, but your tears will flow right out onto the floor between us as you talk. You might feel embarrassed. But know that I am not disturbed. Tantrums, refusing to listen, hoarding, hiding, lying, skipping, smoking, drinking, hitting, hurting. You don’t intend to tell it all. You worry that you will say too much. I promise you will not. Say it all. I am ready. I will believe every word and I will not look at you in shock.

Please know that you cannot say anything that will make me dislike you or your child. I already love you both. So, take a deep breath, and come on in.

Dear child about to walk into my office for the very first time –

I know that you probably do not want to be here. Maybe you didn’t even know you were coming until this morning. Your tummy might hurt and you might not have eaten breakfast because you felt nervous without knowing why. You think you might be in trouble. You think that maybe you’ve finally done something bad enough to make your parents hand you over to someone else to fix.

I assure you, you haven’t.

You might look around my office and wish you could shrink deep into the floor and disappear. You might jump around like a little bouncy ball because you’re so uncomfortable you can’t sit still. You might pull your hood down over your face so I can’t see how red your cheeks gets when you’re embarrassed, or you might start to cry and then get mad at how your emotions betray you so swiftly. You don’t want me to know you are hurting. Or scared. Or out of control. Or desperate for control. Or anxious all the time. Sad all the time. Angry. All. The. Time.

And you don’t know why.

You don’t know how to talk about it so you don’t want to be here at all because talking is a particular kind of excruciating humiliation. You already feel humiliated enough. Please know that I know. Without knowing your exact story, which I hope to learn, I know that you need to be cool and quiet and yet perfectly visible beneath your layer of apathy.

I promise I will not force you to talk or break or heal or cry or walk. You are in charge here. You make the rules. I am here to follow you as we go and hold all the pieces you choose to throw onto the table. I will pick them up and look at them from all angles. We will reshape them together in ways that will serve you better, give you less trouble, and put them back if you need them. You will decide. I may ask you questions or want to look a little longer or a little deeper, but my job is to teach you to look, to know yourself, to know what you need, and how to get it. You are already stronger than you know.

So, come on in. You don’t have to say a word.

Dear Dad about to walk into my office for the first time –

Welcome. I am so glad you are here. There are not many dads that walk through my door, but you have, and that is so good. You are so important. Even if you don’t know why you have to be here, or what to say when you sit down, don’t worry. We are in this together: you, your family, and me. I am on your team.

I promise that I will hear your thoughts and fears and desires for your child as if they were my own. I promise that whatever brought you here today is what makes you a good dad. Above anything else you tell me – the ugly, the painful, the good, and the bad – please know that it is all welcome here. I want it all.

Thank you for coming.

Dear family about to walk into my office for the very first time –

It is so nice to meet you. Your faces are calm and smiling but I know that your hearts are pounding and your mouths are dry.

I know that everything you wanted to say is floating around in your minds sounding crazy or loud or scary or silly or you forgot it completely. It might come flying right out like a forceful stream or it might get stuck in your throat like a dam that is threatening to break. It’s okay.

I have enough Kleenex to soak up an ocean of tears and enough rope to lasso a storm of emotions. I am not afraid of the mess. So bring it all to me and we will find a way to sort it out together.

You have already done the hardest thing: you showed up. You are terrified, and you are amazing. Keep going. You have everything already inside of you that you’ll ever need. I am only here to help you see it.

Come in.