Step 1

Have a conversation about the children and parenting

A lot of parents question their role as parents and are concerned about the impact of their problems on their child’s well-being, but they are afraid to bring it up themselves. 

You have a conversation about the children and parenthood from an open interested attitude. This step ideally takes place during the first conversation. 


Points of attention

  • Communicate that the topic of children and parenthood is a standard part of your organisation’s way of working. 
  • During the conversation, ask if the client: 
  • Has minor children at home. 
  • Shares taking care of the children with someone else. 
  • Has an (ex) partner and children with whom he has regular contact. 
  • Is pregnant or expecting a child with a partner. 
  • Have a positive conversation with the client about their children and their role as a parent. 
  • If the client is staying as a resident, remember to ask if any childcare has been arranged. 
  • Record any relevant information regarding their children in their file: the number of children, their date of birth, their names and whether they reside with the client permanently. 

Questions about Parenting and the Children

It is important that parents feel that they can talk freely about their children and parenthood. If they feel safe enough to do so, they will bring up problems more easily and they will be able to get support sooner. Moreover, parenting is an essential part of a person’s identity and clients may feel more seen as a person if parenting has a place in the conversations. 

How can you ask about their children and parenting in an open and non-controlling way?

As a counsellor, pay attention to your posture and consider the following tips: 


  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that start with who, what, where, how and when. Closed questions can give people the impression that they are being interrogated and that can provoke resistance. 
  • Don’t problematize. Don’t make the client feel like a bad parent but speak to the client in a positive and empowering way about the children. Look for things that are going well and acknowledge them. 
  • Don’t stigmatize. Assume that every parent wants the best for their children. Parents sense prejudice, which has a detrimental effect on the course of the conversation. 
  • Don’t judge and blame. Be gentle with your client. Show interest and understanding and don’t make judgments too quickly. If there are problems, remember that they are more a result of “not being able to” rather than “not wanting to”. 
  • Don’t check. Make sure the conversation does not feel like an interrogation about their parenting skills. 
  • Be transparent. Explain to parents that the information obtained during the conversation is not intended to be passed on to third parties. If a referral to another institution proves necessary, be honest with parents about this and support them in this. 
  • Be genuinely interested. Show interest – not only in the well-being of the children but also in how the client experiences parenthood. 

Example questions:

  • Which people are important in your life and in what way? 
  • How do you feel about the many roles you have to fulfil in life? Your role as a partner, mother or father, daughter or son, colleague or employee, boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.? 
  • How are things going in your family? What is going well and what is not going so well? 
  • What makes it go well? What makes it go less well? 
  • How are things going with raising the children? What age group are they in and what is the primary focus in their upbringing at the moment? 
  • Some people draw strength from parenting. For others, it’s a burden, they feel like they are failing as a parent. How do you experience being a parent? How do you feel about having children? 
  • What problems do you run into as a parent yourself and what is going well? 
  • Could you use some help raising the children? What would be helpful to you? 
  • Are there people in your network who help you take care of the children?