Everybody…Should

Everybody…Should

Welcome to the website for the psychological services clinic known as CHCI- Cognitive Health Consultancy International. This website, this blog, will represent the collective endeavors of a group of 7 (or more) professionals in the fields of clinical psychology, neuropsychology, educational psychology and art therapy. I am a ‘visiting blogger’ as I am proudly affiliated with CHCI, though I am actually a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician. I asked if I could write the first blog, and my colleagues said ‘Sure!’

This blog will contain many perspectives because the people working at CHCI have different professional, educational and cultural backgrounds. Our opinions, the information we share, will be filtered only by one standard- that is a ‘gold standard’ approach to cognitive and mental health services. If you read this blog you will learn what ‘evidence-based’ approaches are and how they influence the way we work with you and your family.

This past week I was asked to give a talk at UWCSEA here in Singapore about Anxiety in Children and Adolescents. This is a talk I have given many times over the past 10 years, in fact, but in the past 4 years the talk has taken a new focus. This is because once I read the article entitled “Stress, sensitive periods and maturational events in adolescents” by Drs. Susan Anderson and Martin Teicher from Harvard Medical School (2008), I decided I was going to make it part of my professional mission to ensure that parents understand more about child and adolescent brain development, and how that brain development is negatively affected when there is significant stress at certain key periods.

Briefly, when a certain part of your brain is developing, it is much more vulnerable to cortisol, your stress hormone. So, if you have too much stress, too much cortisol, at critical times, then the parts of your brain which control emotional regulation and/or executive functions are changed in such a way that you are vulnerable to having recurring problems throughout your life- because your brain has not really developed optimally.

This brings me to the title of this blog- Everybody… Should….

Everybody is the word most children, many adolescents use when they are trying to convince their parents to let them do something that perhaps even the adolescent or child knows they maybe are best not doing. “But Mom, EVERYBODY” has a 1 a.m. curfew ..”

Should is the word many parents use when they are trying to convince themselves that their teenager is required to book every day with tutoring or enrichment activities, or that it is necessary to spend 2-3 hours on homework after a school day when you are 9 or 11 years old. “My child SHOULD do XYZ to put it on their resume, to be top of the class in….”

There are incalculable sources of stress in the life of a child, a teenager, a parent. Many of them are phrases that have one of these two words in them, I imagine.

In fact, there is no one ‘everybody.’ When my son was in 10th grade in Jakarta, my friends and I hosted an ‘everybody’ meeting of all the parents of his grade level- many came. We heard the wide range of expectations that other parents had, how they felt about their children going out, or not, for example. We decided there was no one ‘everybody’ and for us good, common sense prevailed. Limits and recognition were the keys to a complete and well balanced adolescence.

If you want to learn more there is a great pamphlet called ‘Raising Teens, A Synthesis of Research and a Foundation for Action’ by Dr. Rae Simpson. Dr. Simpson is now at the Work-Life Center at MIT and you can find the pamphlet on line. This is a research based approach to a healthy teen life, and effective parenting. See what the research says your adolescent ‘needs’ and make that your guide for helping reduce the stress of adolescent life- rather than responding to the ‘everybody’ arguments. Talk with your friends and support each other. Another great resource is ‘The Blessing of a B-‘ by Dr. Wendy Mogel. Everybody needs to be resilient, that is what everybody needs. CHCI can help as well!

And how about all those ‘shoulds’ and the inevitable pressure you feel when your neighbor’s child is winning wrestling matches at age 6 and yours is ‘just building with Legos’ (well, maybe that was my neighbor not yours!). There is an interesting article in this month’s New York Magazine (again available on line) entitled Ethical Parenting. It is a bit tangential to the topic of ‘shoulds’, except it is focused on the ends that parents will go to ensure their child is always ‘top of the heap’ and the ethical challenges this can present.

I think we ‘should’ not expect our children to be any more ethical than the model we portray. If we want our children to follow rules, we have to do so. If we want our children to show integrity, then we have to do so. If we want our children to have the courage and tenacity to try something that they may not be the best at, then we have to cultivate a coping attitude which says that we can not always make sure everything is perfect, we will make sure they learn to cope with whatever comes their way. Once you feel this way, there are many fewer things that your child ‘should’ do- just to keep up with or come out on top of others. Again, everybody should be resilient.

The article talks about the Stanford University center called Challenge Success. If you go to their website you will learn why many schools, including some in Asia, have severely cut back on the amount of homework children are given because of research about the relative importance of other aspects of a child’s life.

Please check back with this blog on a weekly basis to check for new postings, by a variety of people. ‘Everybody’ says I ‘should’ get my own website up for my clinic, and maybe I will sometime soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading this and have a terrific week ahead!

Roby Marcou MD
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician
Novena Medical Center
Singapore

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