“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” ― C.G. Jung
A child in an elementary school is behaving differently from the others; not only in his behavior but also that he says things that children in the 4th grade usually do not talk about. He wants to bring harm to others. This harm described as burning or hitting others. When he is questioned by school administrators he just laughs and does not answer the question. The teacher is always calling the school staff as the child bullies others and will not behave in class or work on assignments. The school calls the parents; a meeting is scheduled with a school psychologist and testing confirms a diagnosis.
The parents are called for a special meeting with school administrators, the psychologist and the school advises the parents to get help outside of school to help with the troubled behavior. The parents are offended by what they are hearing and feel embarrassed and ashamed of what is being presented to them. Their pride and ego defenses spring into action and demand that the school do something more to take care of the problem. The parents seek someone to blame whether it is a teacher or an inadequate school program. Certainly it is not the child, it must be the school. The school is doing everything it can with what it has been equipped with to handle such cases but it is not enough in this situation. Further counseling is recommended outside of the school.
What is going on?
While this is not a common scenario is does happen with some consistency. Ask most school administrators and they will tell you of a scenario similar to this one that often unfolds every school year. There is one (or more) student who need mental health treatment. The student is constantly attracting the attention of the school and using its resources and yet the parents are in denial over the reality that their child needs help.
This leads to a catch 22 situation. The parents want the school to handle it and the school is letting the parents know the child needs help outside the scope of what the school can provide. For the school it can become a legal matter and for the parents it becomes a matter of overcoming denial and moving into acceptance and getting their child the help they desperately need. Sometimes it takes a community to counsel a child both in and outside of the school. If a child is exhibiting behaviors and using language that are threatening to others it might be time to begin defusing what could be a potential ticking time bomb.
What to do about it?
If you are a parent and you find yourself and your child in a situation like this please know that it is okay to get help. Do not let shame and self doubt become obstacles to helping your child. Move out from a mode of thinking that the problem will just go away or your child will somehow grow out of it. Move into a mode of acceptance and understand that the problem rarely somehow will just take care of itself. Trying to take care of the problem yourself or thinking that you can often leads to exhaustion, disappointment and no results.
One of the greatest stigmas of mental health counseling is being open to discuss counseling and overcoming the negative perception that going to a mental health professional is going be a grueling and emotionally painful experience. The inverse is actually true. Going to counseling will help a child learn how to manage their thoughts and feelings leading to improved behavior. Additionally, the parents often find help for themselves along the way learning how to cope with a child who can be emotionally and cognitively difficult to handle. Get into counseling and get the help that is needed. This does not suggest that the child is bad or there is something fundamentally flawed with the family. It means that help is needed in order to manage and cope. Professional therapists are trained to educate and help provide solutions to the problem.
Other ways to get help is to find a support group for parents of children who have the same conditions. For example, a parental support group of children with Autism, Oppositional Defiance or ADHD. There is healing and comfort in knowing that what the family is experiencing is not as uncommon as it may seem. Sharing ideas and how to handle specific problems with each other can go a long way toward self care and helping the child. Do not isolate and know there are professionals in the community who can help. They are there for a reason. It is okay to reach out and get help.
About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.
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