The phone call from the school comes in the middle of an important meeting. The presenter’s child has had an anger outburst and is throwing furniture across the room. The parent excuses herself from the meeting and goes to the school to pick up their child. During the drive, the parent calls the child’s psychiatrist to schedule an emergency appointment. The new medications are not working. When the parent arrives to pick up their child, the teacher informs her that her child has been expelled from the school. The teacher is no longer willing or able to care for him.
Current research indicates that COVID-19 has greatly increased the amount of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents (Current Psychology, 2020). As children return to school, they show increased anxiety and depression. Depression and anxiety are often expressed as anger in children and adolescents.
Parents of children with emotional and/or behavioral health issues often feel alone as they try to navigate mental health services and education for their child. There is a stigma that they did something wrong to their child to cause them to have mental health issues. Although mental health issues can be caused by genetics, it is not always the parents’ fault. Some children are simply born with neurological differences. They look “perfect,” however their brains are having difficulty building the appropriate connections. When a mother goes through a divorce and is very stressed while pregnant, this can increase cortisol levels in a child before they are even born (Davis, Head, Buss, & Sandman, 2016). If the family lives in a high crime rate area or has difficulty paying their bills this stress can also increase cortisol in the child’s brain. These increased cortisol levels impact a child’s response to the world around them. Yet, these parents are trying very hard to provide a loving, safe environment for their child to develop. They do not need judgment; they need support and resources.
Unfortunately, social media increases expectations for everyone to have the “perfect” family.
I challenge those of you that read this to re-examine what the “perfect” family is. We need to allow each other to share the realities of parenting. It is not often “perfect” – most likely far from it. It is okay, to not be okay.
Anxiety, depression and PTSD among children and their parent during 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in China. (2020). Current Psychology (New Brunswick, N.J.), 1-8.
Davis, Elysia Poggi, Head, Kevin, Buss, Claudia, & Sandman, Curt A. (2016). Prenatal maternal cortisol concentrations predict neurodevelopment in middle childhood. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 75, 56-63.