ADHD – The Facts Speak for Themselves

Before 1980 no distressed children or teenagers were labelled with the ‘brain-disease’ attention-deficit with hyperactivity psychiatric disorder. Neither were young people medicated prior to 1980. In 1980 nearly one million US children were labelled with ADHD, such that ADHD could be found in every classroom. Five years later that number had doubled. Today, some 3.5 million American children are medicated for ADHD resulting in one in every twenty-three American four to seventeen year old children being medicated. This phenomenon has been replicated throughout the Western world.

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How Well Do You Know Your Teenager

Following on from last week’s column I would like to address the issue of how well do mothers and fathers know their teenagers. An interesting survey in Britain found that teenagers rated mothers above fathers in all but one of the thirty-six categories – the exception being driving! Given that adult males cause more accidents, the latter finding is worrying. Over 500 teenagers were asked to rate their parents on such issues as communication, advice-giving, school homework, literacy, sexuality, public outings, privacy. Parenting children and teenagers is largely about love, limits and lettings teenagers be. Whilst the study indicated that teenagers rated mothers higher than fathers across all the essential parenting categories, it alarmingly showed that a high number of teenagers not only rated their fathers poor at parenting, but their mothers as well – indeed, 41 per cent of teenagers rated their experience as less than good. Fathers were often portrayed as second best, deadbeat or more concerned with their jobs than the wellbeing of their sons or daughters. A further worrying outcome of the 2008 survey is that 43 per cent of the teenagers felt they could manipulate their mothers while one-third felt they could manipulate their fathers. Sadly, it is often because of this very weakening of parental resolve that teenagers manage to get themselves into trouble.

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Immaturity Kills

The late Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, tells a story of parents who gave their second son a Christmas gift of a rifle that their first son had used to take his own life. Scott Peck believed that he could help the second son, but not the parents, as he saw them as evil. I believe I could help the parents as well but what is ‘evil’ but only goodness tortured by its own thirst and hunger for love.

A gun is a lethal weapon and none more so than when put in the hands of a troubled and troubling young person. A car is also a lethal weapon and when a young person who is confused, dependent, fearful and defensively aggressive sits behind the driving wheel of a car we are all in danger. It needs to be recognised that many young people are responsible in their driving and we need to be wary of a knee jerk reaction to the recent Kerry and Donegal tragedies where so many precious young lives have been lost. Nevertheless, serious consideration on all our parts is required and a ‘community watch’ on young people’s driving recklessly and speeding needs to be implemented. Reporting to the police the registration numbers of cars is a first step but also, where possible, informing their parents is critical to the wellbeing of the young drivers and their passengers and, indeed, the rest of us.

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Raising Responsible Teenagers

When a child or teenager goes on the rampage in response to a ‘no’ from a parent, what is the parent to do? Certainly, a clip around the ear would only be fighting fire with fire and does not model for the young person a mature way of managing a conflict situation. The immediate response to a child who is attempting to gain control through destructive or terrorising behaviour is to physically hold the child in a firm and non-threatening way that is safe for the parent and prevents him/her from continuing the intimidatory behaviour. When it is a teenager, the parent needs to keep a safe distance, maintain strong eye-contact and request firmly that (s)he immediately desists from this disturbing behaviour. If the teenager continues rampaging, then within the young person’s earshot, the parents need to ring the police and request immediate help. This latter response is both a kindness to self and to the son or daughter.

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