Six-year-olds diagnosed and medicated for bi-polar disorder? Prescriptions to keep young children quiet, calm, attentive, cooperative? I've been appalled by stories about the growing trend to diagnose children under the age of 10 ? and medicate them so they fit better into our lives. This may sound like a rant, but I'm going to try very hard to highlight what I feel is wrong with the rush to diagnose and medicate young kids. Under no circumstances would I ever agree to medicate my six-year-old because a psychiatrist "thinks" he has bipolar disorder! I'm not discouraging professional help when things are really wrong. But when did we start giving up our own common sense? Why do we now look to the outside professionals first, before making our own assessment and doing everything possible to deal? And why are we surprised that professionals diagnose ? that's their profession! They know parents are stressed and need to be able to control their child. They assume parents have no time to reorganize their lives and family to benefit the child, without having to resort to medication.
Yes, many times simply fitting into a professional category of diagnosis is the "guiding" force. It's so simple it's seductive. But it's also premature. Mr. and Mrs. Parent, you are not a victim here, you have other options, and hard decisions to make and implement.
As a stepparent, I experienced many trying times when medicating myself and/or others would have brought great relief! Every reasonable adult knows this. Suffering and stress are part of life, and our society delivers them in unhealthy proportions. But we have choices about how we deal with them. We can act as if this craziness is out of our control and that we just "don't know how to control little Johnny." We can look for an outside fix -- a pill to make it go away. Or we can dig deeper.
I think the truth is we are less willing to "compromise" our own life -- to look at ourselves, our family, our living situation, the amount of time we spend with our kids, what they are watching on TV ? and change what's outside our child, instead of what's inside our child. This means taking time, making sacrifices, maybe cutting back at work to be at home more ? it means being a parent. Sometimes it's easier to get a diagnosis and a pill. I have some suggestions for our culture of parents who are racing to get to???.
I don't know, you tell me where you're going in such a hurry. Here are my top suggestions to slow the train down and stop the quick fix medications for children: 1. Trade in the (2) $40,000 cars for (2) $14,000 ones. Buying big ? and often beyond our means ? is an endless rat race. Buying doesn't make us happy. We realize our life still feels the same -- so we spend more.
And who the hell cares about the Jones anyway? They are too busy thinking they're the greatest in the neighborhood to worry about you -- they don't even know who you are! 2. Reduce the number of TVs in your house (and no TVs in bedrooms). Give yourselves some peace and quiet. Our nervous systems don't like constant stimulation. A current study says kids under two watch about two hours of TV a day ? are we nuts?? 3.
Watch a family movie together, have a game night. Make one another the focus of your attention ? you're all worth it! 4 Eat dinner together (yes, McDonalds counts). Studies show family meals are a strong indicator of family health. This is your chance to catch up, share things that you care about, celebrate, commiserate?be a family! 5.Stop enrolling kids in every activity their (or your) heart desires.
Let children be children, with plenty of free time to find their own simple interests and learn to entertain themselves. Kids happily live "low maintenance" lives if we let them. And it builds their ability to be happy with less. 6. Make sure kids spend ample time outside, connecting with nature.
Nothing feeds the soul like fresh air, a neighborhood kickball game, picking flowers, climbing trees, running through the sprinkler?. 7.Make sure kids have a source of spirituality -- Buddhism, Catholicism, evangelism ? believe it or not, it doesn't much matter what it is as long as it encourages them to care about other people, develop an appreciation for things money can't buy, and be outside their own box. At the end of the day, do you want your kid to say, "yeah, we had a hot tub, four flat panel TVs and a Mercedes" or do you want them to be grounded, happy, and able to feel things fully and accept who they are? It starts right here and now, with the home environment. You can control your environment. You'll have to make some changes, but in the end, it can mean the difference between a child who needs to be "settled down" with medication and always depends outside direction, and a child who can focus, feel, and direct his own life.
And if that's not persuasive, the prevailing "wisdom" says the new medications have no long-term effects ? but who really knows? Why take the chance? Aren't you just a wee bit concerned about giving your child medication without trying other parenting strategies first? After all, quieting and paring down our lives can benefit all of us.
Mary Logan is a professional life and business coach. Working with families suffering mental illness to take charge of their life and strengthen the family unit. She can be reached at http://www.ucanthrive.com