You may decide that you can’t do enough to help your child reduce his or her experience of distress by yourself. Where should you turn for help? It amounts to a very different decision to take your child to a child psychologist whose speciality is talk and uses techniques like play therapy or to take your child to a psychiatrist who routinely “diagnoses mental disorders” and then “prescribes medication.”
What if your child’s school difficulties have to do with poor eyesight or poor hearing? What if his or her lethargy, pain complaints, or sleeplessness are symptoms of a medical condition? See if you can rule out genuine organic and biological causes for the “symptoms” that your child is displaying before supposing that they are “symptoms” of a “mental disorder.”
How do you describe your own difficulties to yourself and to others? Do you say things like, “Oh, I have ADD and our little Bobby has it too”? Or “Depression runs in our family”? Or “We can’t seem to get Sally’s anxiety meds right—but I have the same problem myself”?
Human beings do not automatically love other human beings. Nor is love a stable, impregnable sort of thing. You may have lost patience with your child, feel oppressed by him or her, or in some other way lost that loving feeling.
Who hasn’t watched a young child obsessively build a tall structure out of blocks, knock it down, build it up again, knock it down again, and keep doing that for a long half hour? What is going on there?
Have you checked in with the people in your circle and your community: your mate, your other children, your parents, and anyone else who knows your child well? What are their thoughts about what’s going on?
Have you asked your child what’s going on? Asking is very different from accusing or interrogating.
Let’s say that you come to recognize that your child’s acting out has to do with the fact that you and your mate are obliged to move every few years for work. That obligatory move is putting a strain on your child, who must continually deal with being an outsider at a new school.
If your mate belittles your child and your child grows sad and withdrawn, your child certainly has a problem. But isn’t your mate the...
Researchers estimate that as much as a quarter of the population is authoritarian: bullying, controlling, punishing, and just plain mean.
Trauma and abuse produce distress. Sometimes called “adverse childhood experiences,” even a single traumatic event, incident of abuse, or adverse childhood experience can cause difficulties in the moment and lifetime negative consequences.
Kids can feel family stress in their bones. Your young child may not know that you and your mate are struggling to pay the bills or regularly at each other’s throat but he or she is very well aware that something is going on
You might not think that your child having a prominent part in the school play might prove a source of serious stress for him or her. But it might. The same might hold true for an upcoming piano recital, spelling bee, public event or competition.
If your child’s circumstances change, he or she is likely to react to those changes. Is your child in a new school? Doing new, harder schoolwork? Dealing with your separation or divorce? Living in a new town? Dealing with a new sibling?
In the moment—right now—what you may want is that your child stop bouncing off the walls, throwing tantrums, hating school, playing so many video games, not listening, or acting so morose.
You know your child. Was he or she pretty happy until the divorce and have things changed dramatically since then? Did he or she give you sly looks even at one year of age—was he or she an impish trickster even then?
Some problems are mountains and some problems are molehills and most problems are somewhere in between. That your two-year-old grabs toys from other children isn’t a catastrophic problem.
Maybe your child looks to be in distress, maybe he or she is causing disturbances, maybe he or she is very sad or anxious. How should this reality be conceptualized?
What if the instruments of society—your child’s pediatrician, your child’s teacher, your child’s principal, your child’s guidance counselor, etc.—suggest, imply or announce that your child has a mental disorder?
If your child has always been shy, why is it suddenly surprising that he or she is still shy now? If your child has always been bursting with energy and bouncing off the walls, why is it suddenly surprising that he or she is still full of energy and still bouncing off the walls?
Let’s say that your child is exhibiting some sort of behavior, like restlessness, or having certain thoughts or feelings, like feelings of sadness. First of all, is it a problem?
You’re a parent. But you’re also many other things and you’re living a complicated life. You have your own challenges, your own worries, your own past with its disturbances and difficulties, your own dreams and desires, your own intense reality.
Are you concerned about your child’s emotional well-being and/or behaviors, worried that he or she isn’t doing well at home, in school, or at life, and bewildered when it comes to understanding what the help available really means? If so, you are obliged to embark on a journey of self-education.
Parents must inform themselves about the flaws in the current paradigm if they are to have any chance of thinking sensibly about what might be distressing their child. Toward that end of providing information about those flaws, I interviewed Richard Hallam, author of the new book Abolishing the Concept of Mental Illness: Rethinking the Nature of our Woes.
Your child has a room or a shared room where he sleeps, reads, plays video games, and all the rest. But what about that other room where he really resides, the room that is his mind? He takes that room with him everywhere.
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