You want what’s best for your child. You always have. So, when worries arise, your inclination might be to prioritize—to target the problem immediately, and exclusively, before it escalates. In prioritizing, other concerns may become secondary in your mind, relegated to “let’s deal with them later.”
Intuitively, prioritizing makes a lot of sense. But it might be working against you. Challenging behaviour? You go to a doctor and seek treatment—and for a while, things settle. Failed exam? You talk to the teacher—and for a while, things settle. Adolescent heartbreak? You enlist a therapist—and for a while, things settle. You prioritize again and again and again, at every turn, at every heartbreak, at every challenge. But development is a moving target, and the priorities keep shifting. You’re exhausted, hopeful, frustrated, confused.
Why aren’t your priorities yielding more success? Maybe because you’re doing just that: prioritizing. And maybe it’s time, once and for all, to bust the Priority Myth. Priorities, listed from highest to lowest and given attention as needs arise, are simply not sufficient for best outcomes. So this notion that priorities are your best bet when it comes to helping your child is a myth.
How do you prioritize when it comes to something as important and as complicated as your child? Is academic achievement at the top of the list? Maybe emotional well-being should jostle for the coveted number one spot. Wait, what about attention? Can’t do much without that. And where do social skills and peer engagement belong?
The truth is that your child is complex. And in any given week, on any given day, and at any given time your child is a complicated bundle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in countless roles with countless expectations. Athlete. Student. Sibling. Comedian. Explorer. Artist. Scientist. Musician. Protector. Helper. Dreamer. Inventor. Leader. Listener. Friend.
Your child isn’t just one thing—ever. And science supports that fact when we’re thinking about mental health, too. If treating ADHD is your priority, for example, statistics show a high likelihood of other concerns in the mix, like learning disabilities and anxiety.
So, a focus on just one thing—that one big thing you’ve labelled “priority” with the very best of intentions—is probably doomed to fail. Why? Because you need to consider all things, all at the same time, when it comes to your child. As a parent, you’ve always known this to the true. And it’s something you’ve always tried to do within the joy and complexity of parenthood. Because it’s not enough for your child to be an A+ student with no friends, or a star athlete with failing grades, or a talented musician with constant worry.
If you have concerns, stop burdening yourself with the expectation that you must prioritize. Child and youth mental health is much more complicated than that. And it’s okay to seek help, especially when complications feel big and exhausting, frustrating and endless.
At the Possibilities Clinic, our Signature Assessments and treatment plans don’t involve one clinician, but many, allowing us to consider multiple issues at once. Your team will be customized to suit your child’s needs, drawing from psychiatry, psychology, social work, speech and language pathology and occupational therapy.
Your child is your number one priority. Beyond that, stop prioritizing. Harmony, not hierarchy, is the key to well-being.