There is far too much stigma — and far too many myths — attached to talk therapy, even in 2020. And perhaps one of the most harmful is that you only need therapy if something is “wrong.” That goes for children, too. When I tell someone that I send my 6-year-old daughter, Amelia, to therapy, reactions are mixed, but often they come with a raised eyebrow that asks: What’s wrong?
On a recent morning, I reminded my daughter that she had a doctor’s appointment that day.
“What doctor? Are we… are we going to see Suzanne?”
“We are,” I said.
“Yay, yay, yah,” she screamed. “I can’t wait to see Miss Suzanne.” And she really couldn’t. Her joy was genuine, her enthusiasm was overwhelming, and before long she was bouncing around the house, collecting both toys and secret treasures to bring to her appointment.
“Can I show Miss Suzanne my ballet shoes and dress?”
“Yup,” I said.
You see, my daughter and Miss Suzanne have a special relationship. Maybe it is because my daughter loves playing imaginative games and Miss Suzanne’s office is stocked full of them, plus puppets and toys. Maybe it’s because Miss Suzanne is a mother herself and, as such, she knows exactly how to interact with my daughter. She knows the right things (and wrong things) to say to a temperamental 6-year-old. But whatever the reason, my daughter loves Miss Suzanne. My daughter loves going to therapy — because of Miss Suzanne.
If you’re asking yourself, Why is such a young child in therapy? How beneficial can it really be at that age? Those are valid questions. After all, many assume the only people in therapy are people who are mentally unwell. But that isn’t the case. There are numerous reasons individuals seek professional assistance and support, and in our case, I take my daughter to therapy so she can be a healthier person, and a happier person. So she can be a complete person, a whole person, and a better person. So she can understand her emotions and learn to put words to her feelings.
But that’s not all; I also take my daughter to therapy to boost her confidence. Talking about her stressors and fears may seem intimidating but it helps her process them. It eases her anxiety. I take my daughter to therapy so she can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. So she can learn to sit with her feelings, even when they are negative. Even when they cause you anguish, pain, discomfort, and genuine hurt. And I take my daughter to help her learn the importance of self-care and asking for help.
She is learning it is not only okay to ask for help, but to get said help.
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Last night, the hubs took this sweet angel to her first Daddy Daughter Dance. Her nails were painted, her dress was fluffed and her tiara was on. (She looked like a princess.) But instead of dancing coyly with her father, she flailed and jumped. She ran around the room and — to be honest — I couldn’t be prouder. Why? Because she is unique. She is different. She moves to the beat of her own drum. Stay weird, kid. Be proud . Be you. #parenthood #childhood #raisinghumans #raisingkids #raisinggirls
Make no mistake: I know “family therapy” may not be for everyone. I know our arrangement only works because I am privileged and have health insurance, and because I have access to a network of doctors. Doctors who are willing to work with and care for children. I know our arrangement only works because I have both time and money. As a work-from-home, stay-at-home parent, I can be flexible in her care.
And I know some do not agree with my decision. They say that by sending my child to therapy and encouraging her to confront big feelings, I am placing adult problems upon her shoulders. But in my experience, therapy hasn’t only improved her life and her mental health; it has improved our lives, and the collective conversations we are able to have.
Guess who else benefits from therapy: These celebrities.