One of the biggest challenges I find in my career is the pressure to diagnose children. With the added pressure of billing to insurance companies and customers wanting an answer to “Why does my child act like this?”, professionals are often pushed into slapping a label on you. Is it ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Oppositional Defiance……..? The list can go on.
This has always been a struggle for me. Not that I’m not prepared to handle diagnosing or know symptoms to treat. It’s that label. It sticks around. It’s often used to excuse behavior rather than change it. It can leave an impression on a child that “something is wrong with me”. And the biggest issue I have, a lot of times nothing is wrong with your child. They are developmentally where they should be. Yes, I said it. They are normal. They are reacting to the stressful events that are occurring all around them.
Let’s look at society today just to make an example here. Have you ever noticed how high anxiety and depression rates are in adults? How many people are on antidepressants to treat both issues? Do you feel life is stressful and over-scheduled? Feel like there is constantly something pulling you in a different direction, running from place to place, never ahead of schedule? Our children are right along with us. And not only can they feel the same way we are feeling, they can’t think through it the way we do. They can’t tell themselves, “this is only a season”, “things will be better after this week is over”, “vacation is just a week away”, or “I will just take a whole week off next month and reboot”. Nope. They are expected to be miniature adults who go with the flow!
When I was growing up, I remember being home most of the time. I played outside every day. I had a very active imagination. It was safe enough for me to roam around our neighborhood unsupervised, ride my bike all around the circle or the subdivision we lived in. Everyone knew who I was and we knew all our neighbors. I walked down the road to a small country store and bought honey buns for breakfast along with a papersack full of 5 and 10 cent candy and gum. We would walk down to the creek and swim. I road my bike to friend’s houses. We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up, but I had no idea until I was older and more mature. I never felt I was lacking as far as material things.
What about today? Kids are being showered with toys and candy every time they go somewhere just for being good in the store or to keep them quiet. They rarely play outside. They are watching shows that are developmentally more advanced than their little minds are. Their face is glued to an electronic device of some sort daily. They expect things to be given to them versus earning it through work (chores, helping a neighbor, etc). And need I say it, many parents have no set rules in the home or little structure for their children to know what is expected of them.
That in turn leaves us with children who have little tolerance for idle time. They are easily bored and can’t sit still and be quiet because they are used to constant entertainment of some sort. Their imagination is lacking. They have no patience and struggle to wait for reward because they are so used to immediate gratification. They are disrespectful not only to their “elders” (as we were always taught to respect our elders) and struggle with authority figures. They are constantly being reprimanded at school. (I won’t even get started on how the school system’s changes may be negatively affecting this too. That’s a post in itself.)
Then parents take them to a professional and explain that something is wrong with this child. He is always in trouble. He can’t sit still. She talks back all the time. I can’t get him to listen! The parent throws out ideas of ADHD… A doctor has maybe even suggested Oppositional Defiance. And then……a diagnosis is slapped on their head for the rest of their life. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes these diagnoses are accurate and helpful (sometimes…), but many times the child is overstimulated, overly attended to, and lacking some parental guidance. So, how do you treat that?
I would like to continue this with a series of parenting tips to help you make some changes where you see the need. Join me in the next few posts and share with me areas you struggle with the most as a parent.