Labor Day signifies the bitter sweetness of an end to summer and the anticipation of the start to a new school year. For September 2019, it is estimated that over 50 million U.S. students will head back to public schools, approximately 5.75 million kids will return to private schools, around 1.7 will resume homeschooling, and 3.7 million teachers will be back to work. Furthermore, around the world, millions more are joining American pupils in continuing their education.
That’s a lot of people transitioning from summer break!
Whereas it is normal for most people to get at least a little bit of “back-to-school-jitters,” there is a big difference between feeling stressed out and suffering with an underlying mental health disorder. With so many changes at once, school is often a time when psychological issues and behavioral problems become more evident.
For the 20% of little ones with learning disabilities and other psychiatric imbalances, back to school is especially challenging. The most common neuropsychiatric disorder in children, with rates continuing to rise, is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). According to the CDC, approximately 9.4% of young people aged 2-17 years have ADHD. Additionally, 2 out of 3 of these children struggle with at least one other mental disorder simultaneously.
I am aware of the many controversies about ADHD. These include concerns for overdiagnosis and overmedication, unclear criteria, and critiques in making the diagnosis. There are also heated debates on connecting its prevalence to our modern fast-paced, world. These same caveats exist for many other mental health issues as well.
Although, with every other diagnosis, assessing the organ of dysfunction seems obvious, often it isn’t done with the brain. Yet, regardless of the “label” a young person is given, imprecise or not, there is enough disruption in a child’s mind, mood, and behavior to have parents seek out help. That is something that should not be taken lightly.
The Brain is the Only Organ Not Looked at Before Diagnosing and Treating It
I have been a fan of Dr. Amen’s work for many years. He is a kind man on a mission to end the stigma of mental health issues by validating that people that struggle with imbalances in psychology and impulse control are not “weak willed,” “evil,” or “lazy.” Using scans of the brain, his research has shown that by looking at the organ in our cranium, we can see patterns that coincide with symptoms of behavioral and psychiatric disorders.
In fact, Dr. Amen has classified seven types of ADHD/ADD, each with their own distinct brain patterns. He discusses the connection between ADHD and a commonly shared pattern among them, an overactivity in the prefrontal cortex, in an informative blog:
ADD/ADHD, typically occurs as a result of neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex. When people with ADD try to concentrate, PFC activity decreases rather than increases as it does in the normal brains of control group subjects. As such, people with ADD can have poor internal supervision, short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, and hyperactivity (although only half the people with ADD are hyperactive), impulse control problems, difficulty learning from past errors, lack of forethought, and procrastination.
ADD/ADHD & the Frontal Lobe
Here are some common characteristics of ADD that clearly connect this disorder to the PFC:
The Harder You Try, The Worse It Gets.
Research has shown that the more people with ADD try to concentrate, the worse things get for them. Instead of increasing as it should, the activity in the PFC will actually decrease. This means that when a parent, teacher, Supervisor, or manager puts more pressure on the person or student with ADD to perform, he or she often becomes less effective. Too frequently when this happens, the parent, teacher or boss interprets this decrease as willful misconduct, and serious problems arise. While it is true that almost all of us perform better with praise, I’ve found that praise is essential for people with ADD. (emphasis mine)
When the boss encourages him to do better in a positive way, he becomes more productive. In parenting, teaching, supervising, or managing someone with ADD, it is much more effective to use praise and encouragement that are highly interesting or stimulating and relatively relaxed.
Blaming the Person vs. Treating a Sick Brain
The understanding and patience we give people with chronic physical diagnoses, should also be given to those with mental health issues. For children and adolescents, when their brains are rapidly developing and neural plasticity and pruning are at their peak, being especially sensitive to their newly forming identities is critical.
Brene Brown is quoted as differentiating shame and guilt as follows:
Guilt means you made a mistake, you can right it if you choose.
Shame means, you are the mistake.
Shame is highly correlated with addiction, eating disorders, psychological issues, and many other self-destructive patterns.
Guilt is inversely correlated with these.
(Watch more on this in this 2 minute video.)
As noted above, these behavioral patterns are related to a sick brain, not a personality flaw. For some people with mental disorders, the harder they try, the worse it gets.
Dr. Amen has relieved many guardians’ guilt that their children are being “willful” due to their unproductive parenting. His services have also allowed adults to release the shame of feeling like they are “weak-willed.”
Essential Oils and Back to School for All Kids
Due to the fact that essential oils are truly holistic in how they address the emotional, physical, and electrical brain, as well as heighten spiritual and relational connection, I am on a mission myself to support parents, children, and everyone with these tools. I feel that they are one of the most powerful, and overlooked, gifts of nature for emotional healing.
In my upcoming post, I’ll be providing specific product suggestions for my e-subscribers on essential oils that I’ve found helpful in my practice for little ones with all different types of brains.
Down the line, I will also be highlighting resources on how parents can help kids by acting as their temporary prefrontal cortex.
Specific product recommendations will be sent out to my e-subscribers. You can sign-up below! I will make them available for the month of September.
*Safety reminder: Please be extra sure to check with your doctor if you have a seizure disorder. The Epilepsy Society of the UK lists certain essential oils implicated for their antiseizure effect as well as those that have stimulating properties.
For additional safety and medical information, please be sure to visit my essential oils database. This includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
If you and/or your physician are interested in consulting with me to assist with supporting the integration of essential oils safely into a therapeutic protocol, essential oils consultations are available.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.