Sitting in the quiet waiting room just minutes before her therapist came to retrieve her, my 8-year-old turned to me, and with a clarity that always surprises me she asked, “Mom? Why do I come to therapy?”
It’s a hard question for us parents to answer. We want to protect our kids, make them feel safe, encourage their individuality, yet we don’t want to make them feel like they are different from their peers. My daughter is highly sensitive, and the last thing I wanted to do was add to her anxiety or uncertainty.
The first truth is, we suspect she may have ADD. After visiting with a neurologist, he recommended we start with a behavioral therapist, someone who could really get to know her and make recommendations from there. We found a wonderful woman, and my daughter responds to her really well.
The second truth is, we were experiencing some major Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde types of mood swings that caused disruption within the family, and we were hoping the therapist could help give us all tools to endure these episodes. In fact, when my daughter recognizes she’s having difficulty in her day, she’ll often ask me when her next appointment is.
When she and her twin sister, born at 31 weeks, started occupational therapy at age 7, it was easy to explain. “You need help improving your balance and gross motor skills.” Behavioral therapy and mental health issues in general can carry a stigma. But with the right words and open conversation, we can move on to helping our children succeed.
The following is advice given from Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a board certified developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX.