All to often parents are told “Don’t worry,” when they should be worried. “Don’t worry” usually comes from a friend, grandparent, other relatives, or the child’s other parents. But it can also come from one or another “expert.” Sometimes the “Don’t worry” comes from a super professional, as family doctors and pediatricians all too often tell parents “She’ll outgrow it.” Not always helpful.
This is the story of how a child with autism uses an iPad to help her communicate. Her parents thought she was just a late talker, but fortunately took her for an evaluation with a specialist. Stigma keeps too many parents and family physicians from getting specialized evaluations. The earlier a problem like autism is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes for the child. Fight stigma and if you are worried do something.
This is where the art of medicine and a parent’s desire to not face a potential problem often collude. Collude means to secretly work together in the support of a negative goal. In cases where a parent’s worry is dampened without proper investigation; the professional may be colluding, but generally not on purpose. Both want the best for the child. Still the results are often sad for parent and child.
Too often in my role as a therapist and the director of children’s mental health teams I heard, “If only we had known earlier.” Usually, this was followed by a bit of anger toward one or another professional who had told the parent “Don’t worry.”
WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?
Sadly, this is one of those situations where there is truth on both sides. Moreover, some people’s worries damage children. Here are some tips to help you decide whether to quash your worries or insist on some professional help.
- Know yourself. Are you a worrier in general or laid back? Worriers need to relax at least for a while; laid backers who are worried might go immediately to the next step.
- Why are you worrying about this? Tired of changing diapers and want to get your toddler into pants? You are worrying more about you than the toddler. Had troubles in school yourself and worried that your child seems to have trouble learning his letters? You are worrying about your child’s future more than yourself.
- Rate what you are worried about in terms of your child’s future. I love rating scales. Here’s a five point scale for the above worries:
five = many serious long term effects
four = moderate long term effects
three = some long term, but moderate effects
two = few long term effects
one = no long term effects.
If worries are at four or five, act now; if not set a review date and work on worrying less.
- When you must worry, start by educating yourself. If you are reading this on the internet, you have a world of information at your fingertips. I googled this “When should a boy be toilet trained?” and there were about 24,400,000 results in 0.26 seconds. Tip about advice: Take in five pieces of advice–make at least three of the five sources of information from experts; make at least two from experienced parents. I also googled “Why do kids hate school?” and found far fewer responses. 34oo to be exact and very few that I liked. Most blamed teachers, boring material, poor parenting. Not useful. After about 15 minutes of different search questions I came on one article that made some sense, a Good old Reader’s Digest article.
- Seek competent professional help. The purpose of step 4 is not to turn you into an expert, but to give you some ideas of what might be the problem and where to go to get a competent evaluation if the help you get on the internet does not solve the problem.
Share this post if you think it will aid another. The kindness will circle back to strengthen you even if the person rejects your effort to aid. Sometimes it takes a while for advice to sink in; sometimes others have to add their voice. Life is a journey and we are all on different parts of the path.
Stay strong, I work at it all the time.
Katherine [Image Source]