I have a friend, we will call Pam. Most of this will be referencing Pam because she is the one that I really know, but the father is a part of all this, and does pretty much what I write that Pam does. Her daughter June is 8.5 years old. She has been having some “focus” problems at school, has been for all types of extra help. The teachers and guidance counselors have told Pam that June has some separation anxiety disorder. Also, they suggested a mild medication that June would take (maybe a patch?) for school hours to help keep her focused. One of the counselors had done the same thing for her own child. Let me point out that Pam is a very good mother, loves her children to death. Now here are some other facts that I think Pam has trouble admitting fully, and that these counselors/teachers are unaware of. Pam owns a business, which June can be there with her when necessary, but Pam works many hours everyday. However, as I mentioned, she does get to spend time with June, even if at the business. June, who is in 2nd grade, never does her homework on her own, never had since day one. Pam always sits and does every single piece of homework with her, and much of the time leads her into the right answers or occasionally just tells her the right answer, not to do her work but to show her the answer though not realizing that it is not the best way. Pam will occasionally make comments that the homework is too much or too hard right in front of June, and does not let her start her work without someone else there if she cannot be there. June can be demanding, and usually gets what she wants, or is promised it, with enough badgering and carrying on. Most people around June are guilty of this, including grandparents, aunts, parents, etc. June does not sleep alone, never has. She sleeps with her parents, and basically no effort is made to change that, it is just said by Pam that it needs to change. June usually doesn’t go to sleep unless someone is there with her, again though, she never has been taught to. That is more on the part of laziness by those involved. She asks questions over and over and over, to the point of annoyance, usually when something is not going her way and she is looking for the person who will give her what she wants. June still will throw tantrums (not that often) and can act irrational like a 2 year old rather than an 8 year old. Now, when June is by my house, she does none of this. She sleeps alone, or in my son’s room and goes to bed when told, sleeps through the night, wakes up happy in the morning. Eats whatever I make, despite that she claims to hate cheese or whatever, she eats it happily by me. She is a perfect angel at my house, and I have never spanked her (she does not fear me I mean), and rarely punish her because she is always so well behaved with me. But I do not cater to her, and she knows there are rules that stand with me no matter what (it is how I am with my own kids, so she must follow along.) Same goes for my other friend who has June over many times as well. She will figure things out for herself if I do not help her with something that she should know. No problems. My point in all of this is, if she had a disorder, would she be able to just turn it off when she is with me? That is what makes me against the medication because I don’t think the basic issues have even been dealt with at home, such as having no strong routines, no consistent discipline, and no opportunity to be independent. I can clearly see that she gets tons of attention at home and at school when something is “wrong” with her, so it’s beneficial to her in the way children can think. At my house, she gets no attention for these “problems” but gets treated like my other kids and gets better results doing the right things. I am worried for her because Pam can become defensive about this, so she is hard to talk to. I feel like nobody wants to deal with the real problems, which aren’t even that major, they just take a little effort and consistency to fix. It is easier for all involved to say she has a disorder, let’s medicate her. I know medication can be very necessary, I just don’t see that as the first option in this case. It may never be necessary and it is the first resort after a poor effort to change anything else. Any advice?
THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION WILL NOT BE DISPLAYED UNTIL YOU HAVE INDICATED YOUR AGREEMENT WITH THE DISCLAIMER PRINTED JUST BELOW. CLICK THE 'I AGREE' BUTTON TO AGREE TO THESE TERMS AND SEE THE RESPONSE.
- Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.