Social Work

Mental Health in Children

I came across this article on Psychology Today regarding the mental health of children. I could not agree more with the author’s position on over medicating children. I think that, as a society, we have formed this skewed perspective that children must be miniature adults, acting prim and proper every second of the day. The reality of the matter, however, is that children are definitely not mini-adults. They have a boundless amount of energy, and they are creative, imaginative and endlessly curious. They are supposed to be this way. It’s all part of the developmental stages of life. It’s science.

In my line of work, I often witness the ways in which adults treat children. Some of them are right on target, understanding the ways in which children are developing, and assisting them on their journey through young adolescence. And then I see how other adults treat children, expecting way more out of them then a child will ever be able to deliver. I understand that we all have different styles when working with others, probably stemming from our personal background and history. Sometimes, though, I just want to shake adults. Take them by the shoulders and shake them like a Raggedy Anne doll. Well, maybe not so forceful. I could resort to the trout slap, however, which would be very amusing on my end, but not so much for the receiver.

I digress. (Often)

I guess the point I am trying to reach is that we often think children have the need for mental health services and/or medication because they can’t sit still or they blurt out responses. And then I often wonder how we could forget what it was like being a child ourselves. We all had boundless amounts of energy, some more than others, but it was present in all of us. I remember being so excited in science class that I would often jump out of my seat when I knew an answer. What child is not going to be excited when they know an answer in any class?!

It’s normal. Not abnormal. Children are not adults, and they should be allowed to express themselves in appropriately developmental ways. Not in ways adults express themselves. Because they are not adults. Hell, some adults aren’t even adults, developmentally speaking. And I don’t know about you, but I still get excited about things and sometimes resort back to my tween era…*reminisces*

The article mentions how the placebo effect is present in the parents and teachers of children who are medicated for ADHD. Isn’t that interesting? I also agree with the story in the article about the young man pulling on the braids of the girl in front of him. Of course, it caused a disturbance in the classroom and he was punished. I work with kids who struggle in the classroom due to varying degrees of personal, familial or environmental risks factors. Most of the students have classroom disturbances of one kind or another, and what I have found out is that they usually drift off into space, bother their neighbor, or get out of their seat when they don’t understand something or they are bored. Every single one of them admit to one or the other. Most of the students I work with only have conduct issues in the classes they are failing. It’s probably because they don’t understand, and therefore, they lose interest and become bored.

Boredom + children never bodes well. We have to learn how to better engage these young people. Reach them where they are, with what they are interested in and with the things that give meaning to their life. We don’t need to medicate every single one of them, or think that something is wrong with them because they squirm in their seats. We just need to remember that they are children.

Not adults.

Note: I am not a teacher, nor do I ever think I could perform the job well. Teaching is hard. I am not making a jab at teachers or the profession.

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