For Dr. Roselynn Miller, the opportunity to work with underserved children was what attracted her to the Columbus/Phenix City area.
In March, the licensed clinical psychologist moved from Chicago to join Phenix City Children’s, a pediatric practice on Stadium Drive. Miller now works with more than 55 young patients and their families to assess, diagnose and treat psychological issues.
Miller met with the Ledger-Enquirer to talk about why she enjoys working with children, why adults should treat them as the kids they are and what parents can do to support their children’s emotional health.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about what you do.
I have a caseload of about 58 children, ages 2 to 18. I work with kids and their family. I see all kinds of psychological needs — ADHD, autism, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and everything in between. I work with the children in therapy. I provide play therapy, trauma-specific therapy. I work closely with the family or the primary caregivers.
What do you think adults should be more aware of when it comes to children and behavioral, emotional or mental problems?
I think as adults we often make the mistake that children are little adults — and they’re not. I think that can lead to expectations that are unrealistic and that’s not fair. So sometimes it happens where a child doesn’t get to be a child. They have to grow up too quick because of domestic violence or abuse. They cope in ways they shouldn’t have to. That makes for a lot of emotional problems...
It’s not just an experience that we, as adults, can have... It can become a formative part of a child’s development. To work through that is a daunting process. What’s been injured in childhood can take a long time to repair.
You mentioned you’re drawn to underserved populations. Why?
It’s good to be in a place where I know my work makes a difference. I’m filling a critical need that otherwise may not be met. I also come across different challenges — maybe more severe pathology. I feel challenge is always good in work.
It’s just my passion. My passion is to work with those who need the help the most.
Children, to me, are delightful. They’re still in that place where things are new and exciting... Adults are set in their ways and habits. Children are like a sponge and they’re straightforward. There are very few pretenses with children. They’re honest in their presentation. When you can connect with that, working with children is refreshing... They have the capacity and resilience to survive. To me, it’s awe-inspiring.
What do you think is the role of the family?
I really think of the caregivers as the primary agent of change in the child’s life. I see the child once, maybe twice a week. My scope of influence is very limited. Parents have exposure with them all day long. It’s tough work with parents, but the better they are, the more adaptive they are in their relationships, that will reflect on their children.
Sometimes my work is really split down the middle between coaching the parents and meeting with the children... A lot of it is educating and helping the caregivers understand.
What can parents do to ensure their kids are as healthy as possible — emotionally and behaviorally?
What I tell parents is one of the really basic things kids need is balance. A child needs a high level of warmth and nurturance. They need to be affirmed, loved — verbally, physically, emotionally. At the same time, parents need to have high expectations of their children. When kids act out, it’s usually because that’s come off balance.
If the child receives a high level of nurturance with low expectations, the child becomes overindulged, unhappy and sometimes oppositional. Often times that will lead to depression. They have difficulty developing a healthy self-confidence and efficacy.
On the other hand, if parents’ expectations for children are high, but they don’t provide them the necessary nurturance, the child will become frustrated, angry and often times act out — even aggressively. They become frustrated with only having expectations and not the caring warmth to go with it.
Your nurturance should be as strong as your expectations, and vice versa.