Re-reading some of the material I came across when I was writing my article on pediatric Bipolar, I’ve since realized a that there was a gap in my consideration. Whilst the science around treating young people with mental illnesses is still concerned with medication, data and isolated pieces of research, there’s an entire social aspect that only surfaces during infancy and is therefore often ignored.
When I was a child, I had a keen awareness that socializing and integrating was tougher for me than it was for my peers but I was without any physicians or psychiatrists or google to tell me why. I was also powerless to know which of my experiences were being colored by a condition I wasn’t aware of and why I was being excluded. How many of those experiences informed the person am I today? And how many informed the level of anxiety I experienced throughout my developing years?
Perhaps it’s difficult to know to a certainty which is worse: experiencing social difficulties and not knowing why or being informed early on and carrying that burden with you as you try to interact with other children. I’d submit however that taking the second approach is a demonstration of trust towards your child; that they can take this piece of information and learn to adapt to the difficulties they face – with an added headstart.
On the other hand, learning that you are more and more ‘sick’ or afflicted or experience greater and greater difficulty isn’t much of a good starting point for a six year old and one has to be careful not to compound the issue. There’s a very significant risk of snowballing when it comes to anxiety – something which is very much occurring in adolescents and adults and as I’ve discussed before. It’s dependant on the shared compulsion between patients and doctors to diagnose in order to understand. As an infant walking into a school or social environment with one such diagnosis, however, any negative impact this may have on their ability to make friends or fit in will eventually provoke a reaction in their behavior and almost inevitably this will take the form of another diagnosis. After a relatively short period, a parent who thought he or she was conscientiously following a due process to the end my find a child they enrolled into a school with Dyslexia or ADHD presented back to them by the institution with Social Anxiety Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder or any number of debilitating mental conditions or learning difficulties. That very metric of anxiety – of worrying about a situation to the point of overstimulation or overload – is present as a symptom in almost every major mental malady common knowledge will consider and it’s on the rise.
There are ways to divert the stream of anxiety before it can affect a child’s self-esteem. The critical priority of intervening before this takes place cannot be overstated. If you can save a child from the nastiest of experiences then you can stop the narrative that makes them worse off for who they are in the future. The purity of emotion at that age alongside the child’s feeling of entrapment in the school environment could potentially strip them of the self-confidence and inner resources they need to emerge from the trials of the schoolyard (and the trails of adolescence) unscathed.
Keeping these circumstances in mind is the empowerment parents need to approach any concerns they have of this nature confidently and conscientiously. When this is done with enough nurturing and careful intervention, that confidence stands a good chance of seamlessly transferring to the child, much to the betterment of the rest of their life.