Written by Dr. Daniela Graf, Child Psychiatrist at The Valens Clinic, Dubai.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said:
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
And I couldn’t agree more with this thesis as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and psychotherapist. I would roughly estimate that 90% of all the young patients I see in my consultations are seeking help for problems associated with school.
The spectrum ranges from difficulties directly related to the academic setting, such as learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention deficit disorders), to social challenges (eg bullying, struggling with integration in peer groups) and emotional complaints (feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad or lonely).
While I see outstanding support options on a purely academic level (tutoring lessons, establishment of learning support assistants, close collaboration with the school inclusion departments), I have the feeling that emotional support options still fall short.
Of course, it is clear that schools cannot cover this. Therefore, I am more than grateful how vigilant most school counselors are in dealing with emotional complaints of their students and promptly advising parents to contact a mental health professional.
Fortunately, I often see a tendency in the families who come for consultations to temporarily put academic progress aside in order to focus fully on the therapy of emotional challenges of their children.
Nevertheless, I have the impression that this does not happen often enough. For example, if we advise weekly psychotherapy sessions, unfortunately this is still often, too often, rejected out of concern that the child might miss too much learning content at school.
I would therefore like to make a heartfelt appeal to all parents and echo the famous Aristotle:
It will not help a child if, for example, it speaks four different languages, plays three musical instruments, can do advanced Maths, has straight A’s but deep down feels very unhappy or unable to deal with its emotions.
Mental health should always take precedence over academic success, especially as a stressed sad brain can’t learn properly anyway.