As a child therapist one of the delights of my work is to be able to work with parents. Sometimes, I work mostly with the child, and meet with the parents once every month or every other month. Sometimes, I work mostly with the parent, and meet the child only on occasion. And sometimes I never even meet the child, I just meet with the parents.
This all depends on the specifics of the situation, and of who wants help. Is the child suffering, and wants he or she help, or is it more the parents who need the help? To find the right modality or way to work might take a couple meetings. But the multiplicity of also indicates that there are different ways of bringing change about. Not all the players need to be necessarily involved. However, the work will go much faster if there is a willingness of the parents to also be engaged when the child is brought to therapy. It is not a prerequisite, but it is helpful, and allows for change in both parent and child, enhancing the therapeutic outcome.
Sometimes there is an initial reluctance for parents to come talk, as they have the hope that the therapist will 'fix' their child. Or they feel that by talking about themselves in connection to their child they implicitly acknowledge that they might somehow be implicated in their child's problems.
One of the delights for me of working with the parents is to see how their perception of the child's problems changes. Initially they come in focused on the problem behaviors, and on how to remove those behaviors. However, as the work continues they start to see the behavior not just as a problem that needs to be suppressed but as a language of their child, as an attempt of their child to express something of their very being that they want to see recognized.
I think of the mother who was concerned about her son hitting and kicking her. She would consistently draw the line, and give him a consequence. However, the behavior did not subside, and the anger of the boy seemed to increase. As I was listening to the mother I noticed that she was doubting the way that she was intervening with her son, she felt that the way she was drawing the line also implied her 'ignoring' him. As we thought about it together it appeared that the mother was encouraging her son's behavior implicitly as she was not really listening to what was going on in the son, beyond his behavior. She 'ignored' where his frustration was coming from. Not being listened to, being ignored made the son feel powerless, and encouraged his 'acting out' of hitting. The mother came to the realization that there is a balance to be maintained between drawing the line, which she was naturally good at, and allowing room, recognizing where her son is coming from, creating a space for him.