In an article for Psychology Today by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., March 8, 2012, she reported that in the United States 9% of school-aged children have a diagnosis of ADHD and are taking pharmaceutical medications compared to 0.5% of French children. This study raises questions as to why a disease such as ADHD is so prevalent in the United States and has not affected children in France?
One major difference discussed is how the medical community approaches this disease in these two different countries. First, in the United States child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be biological in nature, and imbalance in the child’s brain and therefore the preferred treatment is biological with psycho-stimulant medications such as Adderall and Ritalin. Whereas, the French psychiatrist see ADHD as a medical condition that has a psycho-social basis. What the French psychiatrists believe is that the child first has an increased level of stress due to their social environment that conditions or changes the way the brain processes information. The French prefer to treat this condition through psychoanalytical methods or family counseling and nutritional means. Parenting skills also have a major influence in how the child begins to handle stress.
According to the article in Psychology Today here are a few points that as a parent what can you do to help your child who has tendencies toward attention deficit and hyperactivity.
- Work with your PCP to ensure your child’s diet is nutritional, avoiding foods that have artificial colors, certain preservatives and/or allergens. ADHD-type symptoms are worsened after a child eats foods with these ingrediants
- Establish firm parenting behaviors that give your children structure. Here are the differences noted between French parents and their American counterparts and that research has shown support French children being more well-behaved then American kids.
- Don’t allow your children to snack whenever they want. Have mealtimes at specific times of the day. This allows the child to wait patiently for meals rather than eating whenever they feel like it.
- French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer.
- French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the taking on the consequences of their behaviors and desires. Have consistent consequences for behaviors that are not acceptable.
These changes can begin the process of teaching your child how to control their behavior and to learn self-control early in their lives. Also, it provides a child with a sense of safety of knowing that the parent is in charge, will take care of them and has their best interest in mind. With this level of safety, a child does not need to take on that role themselves which only promotes anxiety.
These simple changes can make a difference to having a more happier and secure child.