I got my 7-year-old a therapist—and it helped my own anxiety, too

Motherly Collective

I never wanted my kids to suffer the way I did. Unfortunately, despite all my best efforts, all my vows to do things differently, I could only watch in heartache as my daughter’s anxiety wreaked damage—at only 7 years old.

I knew the signs all too well, having grown up so debilitatingly anxious that I couldn’t even enjoy a snow day, for fear that someone was pulling some cosmic prank and I was secretly being duped (being born on April Fool’s Day will do this to you).

My daughter’s anxiety looked different than mine, however I could see it sneaking into the nooks and crannies of her life—warping her perspective and sapping the joy that is supposed to typify childhood.

The epidemic of childhood anxiety

The sad reality, though, is that my daughter is not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. And the Center for Disease Control and Treatment says that these numbers are only on the rise while not even including all the children who haven’t been diagnosed but who suffer nonetheless. 

And yet, as one mental health professional told me when I was writing my children’s chapter book that helps kids with anxiety, “The good news is anxiety issues are very treatable!” 

So that’s why, though she was only 7 years old, I knew I needed to do something. I couldn’t bear to watch her suffer the way I had. 

That’s why I reached out and found her a therapist. 

Facing my own fears about her therapy

As someone with plenty of my own anxiety, this decision was not one I made willy-nilly. At some point, I had to admit that her problem was bigger than I could handle (Heck, I had to admit that she even had a problem!). 

But there were other fears I had to wrestle through, too. One of the biggest being what other people thought about it. Some said she was too young. They said it was “just a phase” that she’d eventually outgrow—why was I making such a big deal about it now? 

But I didn’t want to hedge my bets on that. Because what if it wasn’t just a phase? What if it wasn’t something she was going to outgrow on her own?

Instead, I wanted to be proactive. I wanted to take her by the hand and equip her to deal with the anxieties I was witnessing today—not five or ten or twenty years from now! I wanted her to have the kind of childhood she deserves—where she can enjoy snow days without fear of some elaborate, meteorological prank.

Which is why, at the end of the day, I had to trust my gut and get her into therapy—despite only being 7 years old.

No regrets

And I don’t regret that decision one bit. Especially considering the National Institutes of Health recently released information about their latest research that shows that kids suffering from anxiety can actually find healing at a brain level when they undergo specific mental-health therapies like the kind my daughter did. That means they can treat anxiety at its root—in the brain. But again, that doesn’t just happen. It requires attention and proven intervention.

After two years of therapy, we decided to stop. We had made so much progress that there weren’t issues to work on. Now, four years later, my daughter is thriving, having learned how to handle her anxiety. 

It’s possible those other people would have been right: Maybe she would have eventually outgrown her anxiety on her own. But at least now I don’t have to cross my fingers and wonder. Now, I know she’s equipped to face her anxiety.

As parents, there’s a lot that we can’t do. For instance, I can’t take away my daughter’s anxiety. But, having recognized that it was there, I discovered that there actually was a lot I could do about it: I could come alongside her and support her in the midst of it. I could normalize her experience by sharing my own anxieties with her. I could make intentional choices to help her learn to thrive in spite of it—including helping her get professional help. 

And, in doing so, I could help her reclaim the kind of childhood she deserves—snow days and all.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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