Whatever Happened to Parent Intuition?

Parents today are inundated with copious amounts of professional parenting information, advice, theories and perspectives. Much of it is state of the art and comes in the form of thick research-based parenting text books, many of which, unfortunately, also often contradict each other. The consequences amongst busy, over-worked and regularly overextended parents is self-conscious, manual and google-driven, fretful to-the-point-of-beingcontrived parenting. Their children experience the parents’ overanxious, preoccupied concern, and themselves end up developing anxiety and an insecure sense of self.

Parenting intuition, both as a concept and an innate ability, has for the past few decades been undermined if not usurped by the thousands of parenting books and so-called parenting experts flooding the market. But raising a child ‘by the book’ or according to the directives of a shedload of ‘experts’ (including me!) is like trying to live a healthy life by following diet trends; fat, dairy, wheat, and coffee have all intermittently been good and then bad and then good for us, (and then of course it depends on whether we are gluten or lactose intolerant). The intention may be good, but ultimately making any significant choices in our lives by following fads can have inadvertent and unhappy consequences.

Loving, caring parents who are sincerely committed to doing the best for their children are self-consciously, and often anxiously, trying to follow advice that is not only regularly contradictory but frequently also encourages them to be alert for symptoms of a pathology or disorder. Don’t get me wrong, diagnostics has helped countless children and families handle difficult challenges and traumas. However, increasing numbers of psychologists and mental health professionals are, like me, becoming concerned about the over-diagnosis of too many children, and the ease and speed with which medication is prescribed. For the last two decades working with children, parents and teachers, I have become more and more convinced that, for the average child, seeking a diagnosis is not the answer. Nor is turning to or blaming schools, or necessarily even ‘experts’ (or the 85,000 plus parenting books published to date). The everspeeding roller-coaster ride we are on of excessive cognitive analysis and hyper advice-giving is not working – instead it is leading to analysis paralysis: we are losing touch with our innate human needs and abilities, our need to connect with each other in person and our ability to ‘tune-in’ – to each other and most importantly to ourselves and our own intuition. In my view this applies as much if not more to parents and children than any other group.

Over the years, I have seen repeatedly that meeting this need to connect and tune-in requires, not more advice but less; it requires simplification and letting go of the overemphasis on expert advice, labelling and analysis; by both parents and professionals. For parents, perhaps the hardest thing it requires is letting go of the over-use of technology and social media –whether it be turned to for answers to questions, for social connection, for texting, or to share whatever –it not only interrupts any connection flow between parent and child (one little girl told me her mother was ‘always here but never here’), but also prevents us from connecting with our own intuition and so ultimately reduces our trust in ourselves, making us more and more reliant on answers from outside.

Simplification does not require parents to spend more time with children but rather to be fully present in the time when you are with them. For ‘professionals’, simplification requires us to step back, impose less and listen more. It requires that we turn towards the parents and rather than analysis and advice, give them tools to manage their stress better so they can access and draw on their own wisdom. It requires us all to take responsibility for being more fully present with all children, and with ourselves.

Whether you reading this are a parent, grandparent, child-caregiver, or child-care professional, my experience both as a mother and parent-mentor, has taught me that you very likely have an innate intuitive wisdom that can help you raise the children in your care with considerably less anxiety and stress about ‘doing it right’ than is currently the norm. I have witnessed countless parents become empowered and confident after gaining some simple practices for how to manage their parenting-stress, learn how to reconnect with their own parenting insights and act (rather than following fads and experts) according to their parenting values. Invariably it results in children that are happier and more balanced, and a family that functions in a far more harmonious way.

About the Author

Jennifer Day specialises in emotional intelligence coaching, parenting, stress management and leadership coaching. She is the author/co-author of 6 books translated into 10 languages, and has designed and facilitated seminars and trainings for organizations, schools, parents, teachers and the general public in the US, Hawaii, the UK and Europe. Jennifer has now combined the best of all her experience and knowledge for coaching parents how to communicate and understand their children and create a thriving environment for their development. For more information, check her details here: http://wp.me/p6AdrA-2b


Paediatrics: Focus on ADHD

adhd-boy

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD (also called ADD or Hyperactivity Syndrome), is a ‘condition’ that seems to be becoming more prevalent in Western society. Increasing numbers of parents are bringing their children for a Cranial Osteopathic opinion and I have a found a few common themes which are worth sharing.

Far from being purely a ‘sign of the times’, ADHD was first described clinically in 1798. The diagnosis is based on the individual being: ‘Impulsive, overactive and/ or inattentive to an extent that is unwarranted for their development and is a significant hindrance to their sociological and educational success’ (British Psychological Society 1996). However, there are other diagnostic criteria commonly used (e.g. WHO, American Paediatric Association) which differ in terms of age of onset, I.Q., impulsivity, etc. Then there are the subtypes (e.g. Hyperkinetic Syndrome). As a result, it is often not entirely clearcut whether or not ADHD is the appropriate diagnosis.

I have seen patients who have been given the ADHD label based on behavioural, psychological, ‘medical’ or sociological features but rarely on a combination of all these. To put this in context, estimations on numbers of people with ADHD in the USA, UK, NZ and Australia vary between 5% percent of the population to 16%, depending on which criteria are used!

Symptoms of ‘inattention’:
 Poor attention or makes frequent careless mistakes
 Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
 Difficulty listening when spoken to
 Difficulty following instructions or completing work
 Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
 Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
 Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
 Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
 Forgetful in daily activities

Symptoms of ‘hyperactivity’:
 Fidgets frequently
 Difficulty staying in seat
 Runs excessively (subjective restlessness in adolescents/adults)
 Difficulty playing quietly
 Acts as though “driven by a motor”
 Talks excessively
 Blurts out answers before questions completed
 Difficulty awaiting turn
 Interrupts /Intrudes on others

Symptoms of ‘impulsivity’:
 Reckless, unthinking, impetuous and disinhibited
 Impatient, interruptive, and fail to wait their turn

Regarding theories of cause, neurological studies have shown some interesting results by looking at the electrical activity in areas of the brain responsible for the basic drives and subconscious arousal. One example is the limbic system. In some individuals with ADHD these areas are UNDER-active, suggesting that the frontal lobes and neo-cortex (which are the highly developed conscious areas responsible for inhibiting behaviours) are not being stimulated enough. This is evidenced by reduced bloodflow to and physical size of the frontal lobes in many patients diagnosed with ADHD. As a result, there is a deficit in inhibitory and regulatory mechanisms. This is the rationale behind treatment with drugs such as Ritalin, a CNS stimulant.

Interestingly, it is also a proposed mechanism behind the action of Osteopathic treatment for ADHD which is also geared toward stimulating these regions via increased bloodflow, cerebro-spinal fluid movement, and improved nerve function.

Genetic studies have identified a gene (called Dopamine D4) which is more prevalent in many ADHD individuals. This gene has been associated with novelty seeking, impulsivity, exploratory behaviour and excessive excitability. Dopamine is one of many neurotransmitters which act to transmit signals across synapses in nerve/ brain tissue. Another, noradrenaline, normally acts in balance with Dopamine to regulate activity in an area of the brain known as the Locus Ceruleus. This area is responsible for maintaining concentration levels and the drug, Clonidine, acts on receptors here to modify ADHD behaviours.

From a functional perspective, many patients with ‘ADHD-tendencies’ have demonstrably low levels of specific amino acids, used to manufacture neurotransmitters. Hence a nutritional approach is often warranted. This also includes looking at levels of essential fatty acids (EFA’s), used by the body in neurological development and maintenance, as well as levels of food additives to which the individual may be intolerant. Both children (with ‘ADHD’) and adults (with concentration problems/ poor memory) often report significant improvement following treatment to address EFA/ amino-acid deficiencies and this improvement can also affect associated conditions such as OCD, anxiety and depression.

The concept of ‘behavioural modification’ is a controversial one but there is no doubt that many individuals, children and adults, are functioning suboptimally because of ADHD-type behaviour patterns that can respond very effectively to an integrated treatment approach.

Interesting stats:

  •  10% of children who watch an average of 2.2 hours TV/day at age 1yr, and/or  3.6 hrs/week at age 3yrs, have attentional problems at age 7yrs
  • A 1-SD increase in number of hrs of TV at age 1yr is associated with a 28% increase in probability of attention problems at age 7yrs

Author:

David Propert, Osteopath at Calmer Clinics (Offering Cranial/ Paediatric Osteopathy)


LESS CAN BE MORE

lessmore

Current economic woes aside (enough already!) much of the stress experienced in families is actually self-inflicted – due to our overwhelming emphasis on achieving: achieving success at work; achieving success for our children; achieving ownership of all the stuff we want – stuff for the home, stuff for each other, stuff for the children; achieving status; achieving social skills; achieving advantages; achieving achievements!

Those of us who are parents spend huge amounts of time scheduling activities for our children so that they will achieve. Our goal is for them to excel, and own personal fears of under-performance and not being good enough fuel the energy, time and money we put into striving for the ‘perfect life’ for our children. Unfortunately, what we also achieve in this process is instilling a belief in our children that we don’t think they’re good enough.

PARENTING-CALMER-CLINICS

We live in a society where most of the emphasis is placed on having and doing, while little, if any, is placed on being. Sadly this results in children who feel inadequate, only accepted and loved for what they achieve, rather than for who they are. We seem to have forgotten the order in which true and sustained growth and fulfilment occurs; we must first be the unique individuals we are in order to successfully dowhat we have the most potential for, and what we do will lead naturally to what wehave. (In other words, being, doing and having happens in that order.)

There are some key areas where we tend to let achievement oriented parenting (doing and having) take over, resulting in oft-unnecessary stress for both ourselves and our children. In my many years of counselling parents and children, I have found that ask yourself the following questions can be helpful;

How are decisions about education and your children’s future reached?

  • Are you pushing a child to attend a specific school, educational method or direction even though it might not suit that particular child? Do you help your children (I.e. with homework) because you are afraid they might not do a good enough job?
  • Spend some time exploring your values as a parent; what is really important? Explore your motives for helping out and ‘rescuing’ your child. Remember that childhood is not a performance– it is a work in progress.
  • Spend time listening to your children, ask them their opinion about things, what they worry about, and what dreams they have. Really listen to their answers. Have no expectations; discover who your children really are. 
  • Try to eliminate the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. Appreciate and enjoy your children as they are.

Why does your child participate in extra curricular activities, such as athletics?

  • Are your children playing sports because they love the games – or because they are focused on winning? Do your children have enough time daily to play unsupervised with friends and to spend time with family?
  • Explore your own motives for any tendency you might have to over-schedule your child’s life. What does being a winner or being socially successful mean to you?
  • Consider cutting back on extra-curricular activities and replace at least one with focused time spent with you and/or the whole family; play a board game, go swimming or running, spend time with no specific purpose. Spending time with children without any purpose other than to be together, demonstrates to them that you love them for who they are rather than what for they can achieve.

Shifting the focus generally from doing and having to being, can be a refreshing and de-stressing change for the whole family. Try some of these tips for simplifying your lives and experiencing more being, less doing and having:

  • Don’t answer the phone (and turn off your laptop, iPad, and the TV) when you’re spending focused time with your children.
  • Cut all extra-curricular activities to two days a week.
  • Limit computer games, TV and videos/DVDs to one hour a day, max!
  • Sit down to a family mean once a day if possible, or at the very least 3 days a week, with all technology switched off.
  • Teach your children to spend ‘quiet time’ every day. Show them the pleasure of watching the night sky or being in nature, even if it’s planting some potted herbs.
  • Restrict the purchase of toys and games to special occasions.
  • Have the whole family clean up and give away all you haven’t used for a year.
  • Become aware of trying to change others, and try not to – especially your children and your mate!

By: Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day is a consultant, coach and founder of Applied Emotional Mastery® She specialises in working with parents and leaders, and has written six books, several of which are available at Calmer Clinics, where she also has a practice.

She can be contacted at Jennifer@AppliedEmotionalMastery.com