Adulting Merit Badge: Seeing a Therapist


I’ve been a writer for years. I usually write about things that are sentimental and heartwarming, and mostly in a way that is humorous. I generally see the good, or at least a silver lining, and gosh dang it if the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life and motherhood aren’t a constant mill of hysterical material.

Case in point: tonight I spent 15 minutes arguing with a four-year-old to eat potatoes I never actually put on his plate. It was the exact moment his preschool innocence was shattered by my fallibility.

Poor thing. It had to happen sometime.

Thank goodness it wasn’t my teenager, or I would hear about invisible potatoes for the next ten years.

So, when I sat down and began to write about pediatric mental health, a subject I am passionate about, I grew extremely frustrated at my inability to churn out something meaningful. My education in journalism convicts me to give facts about resources, warning signs to look for, and other helpful pointers.

I’m not a medical doctor or a trained therapist or counselor, so any advice I give would simply be copied from a professional. And truthfully, in 2020, anyone reading a blog on social media can Google, “pediatric mental health.” I began thinking I was simply adding to the overwhelm of parenting resources and my self-perceived inadequacy created an enormous writer’s block.

And then I realized, you don’t need me to tell you that your child’s inability to sleep or extreme fear of being left alone could be a sign to call your pediatrician or a pediatric psychiatrist.

I’m guessing if your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression, especially during this chaotic time, what you need most is someone to tell you there are people who can help you, you are enough, and there is hope.

I know most of us are just trying to get through the day. Invisible potatoes, Covid-19, failed online homeschool, a polarized political climate, canceled sports, guilt from our children’s screen time report (I don’t need a show of hands, this is a judgment-free zone), are all enough to make you pull the covers over your head.

Some days, I even clutch my chest and yell out, “I’m coming, Elizabeth!” in a comedic homage to Fred Sanford’s (Sanford and Son TV Series, 1972-1977) pitiful attempts for sympathetic attention.

Pro-tip alert: I highly recommend spontaneous, dramatic monologues to break the tension and cope with life. Any wild-eyed, under-18 witnesses quickly leave the room in bewilderment. It’s a more fun way to clear the space than asking that they, gasp, pick up after themselves. One suggestion of a chore and you David-Copperfield-them into disappearing!

In all seriousness, I see you, parents of anxious children. And I see you, anxious parents. I see you and I sincerely wrap my arms of love and support all the way around you, careful not to spill your coffee or wine.

Some days it just seems like too much, doesn’t it? And we feel like we aren’t enough, don’t we? But I am telling you this, as sure as there is the sun and rain, you have what it takes, Mama. We all have what it takes.

Somedays we just have to dig deeper than others. And if the days you forget you can do this begin to be more than the days you remember, call someone for help. I have. I have tried to do it alone, by holding it in and keeping my upper lip stiff. But honey, it nearly broke me, and I have a backbone made of steel.

I have leaned on friends, neighbors, ministers, other mothers, and grandmothers (mine and other people’s). But I have also called on professionals.

I have officially earned the “Visits Therapist Regularly,” merit badge of the Healthy, Functioning Adult Society.

Okay, I just made that up, but maybe I should design a logo?

I did a quick Internet search of, “Children’s mental health and Covid-19” and there were 729,000,000 hits. A query of “child anxiety over racism,” produced 33 million results. My point? You are not alone. Your children are not alone. Mothers all over the globe are worried about their children and about the future. And for the first time in a very long time, we are collectively unsure of what to do next.

As your fellow Mama friend, I’m going to tell you what I would tell any of my friends in a porch-sitting session, socially distanced of course: be kind to yourself, see the potential in today, adjust your expectations, join or create a community for support, focus on doing good for someone else, and give yourself and others permission to seek help. And if you’ve sought help, share your story as an encouragement for others.

More than ever, let’s pay close attention to our children and each other.

If you believe that you, your child, or a family member is exhibiting signs of anxiety that are worsening or are prolonged, please call your child’s pediatrician or a family practitioner or internist for adults. Ask a friend or neighbor if they can recommend a good therapist or Google-search for one in our area. Stop me in Publix and I’ll tell you who I see.

Why feel bad, when you can feel better? Why go it alone, when we can go it together?

To find a child or adolescent therapist visit Psychology Today’s search engine

For more information on finding a local physician and about pediatric mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, please visit the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website 

Seeking help for adults? Visit the American Psychiatric Association

For other parenting resources, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Parenting Website


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