The extensiveness of borderline neuro-mental states among children and
teenagers has reached a previously unknown level — about 80% of children in
Russia need medical-psychological assistance. Among youths, recognized as
unqualified for army recruitment on the basis of health, 47% are mentally ill.
Increased nervousness, excitement, emotional instability, tendency to
conflicts, sleep deprivation — are typical symptoms, found in 8 out of 10
Most authors underline the negative role of improper upbringing in the
origin of neurotic reactions among children. The well-known specialist in
children’s neuroses, Prof. A. I. Zacharov, emphasizes the following aspects:
- Parental demands, exceeding
the abilities and needs of the children.
- Parental non-acceptance of
children, expressed by an irritated-impatient attitude, frequent
condemnations, threats and physical punishments, lack of necessary
tenderness and caressing.
- Uncoordinated approach to
upbringing, which is expressed by contrasting strict limitations and
prohibitions from one parent and indulgent and permissive attitude from
- Inconsistent upbringing, its
inequality and contradictions.
- Instability in attitudes
toward children: raised tone of voice, general emotional instability.
- Anxiety — constant worry
about the child, the presence of excessive fears and overprotectiveness.
The expressions of childhood neuroses are varied: emotional instability and
over-sensitivity, whining, easily changing mood, capriciousness, excitability,
difficulty in falling asleep, uneasy dreams, night fears, thumb sucking, biting
skin around nails, stuttering, eneuresis, nervous tics and so on. Some symptoms
are seen more often in one age group, others — in another.
Let us present an example. A grandmother visits the doctor about her
9-year-old grandchild. Her parents often fought, created scandals, and finally
divorced, the father left the family. Because of this, the child developed
bronchial asthma, but no allergy or change in the bronchial-lung matter was
revealed, and she did not have frequent colds. It turned out that the girl has
a neurogenic form of asthma; the neurotic conflicts were the reason for the
asthmatic attacks. This illness — is the cry of the child’s soul.
Another distinction of childhood neuroses is the change of behavior. Some
children run away from home, skip classes, others begin to smoke, try alcohol.
Most of these children wind up on the street and are raised by its rules. Who
is to blame? The parents. The children must be loved, they must be reared, they
must be prayed for. The betterment of the child’s mental state in large part
depends on the parents, their spirituality, their relationship, on the
atmosphere they create at home.
Children must be protected from any deleterious influence, because these
days a whole slew of different types of obscenities are poured on their tender
souls. Parental piety — is an effective example for children to imitate. Its
opposites are drunkenness, non-spirituality, amoral behavior — alas, also an
effective example, but one that is lethal. The Most Holy Patriarch Alexis II
said, that "if there is no consciousness of sanctity in the soul, the
abomination of desolation becomes entrenched in it."
Let us consider those psychopathological states, which can be revealed in
infancy and early childhood and that demand medical attention.
Neuropathy — is characterized by increased irritability, capriciousness of
the child, unstable mood, expressed by fearfulness. Such a child sleeps poorly,
has a poor appetite, loses weight easily, his attention is diverted quickly.
Subfebrility can be a symptom (small but persistently raised temperature,
around 98.78-99.14), diarrhea, neurogenic vomiting.
The syndrome of early childhood autism (alienation) — is characterized by
the lack of desire to socialize with peers or surrounding adults. The child is
emotionally cold, indifferent to others, says little, sometimes completely
refuses to associate, tends to move stereotypically. In newborns with this
pathology, there is no "complex of animation" in response to
Hyperkinetic syndrome: its characteristics are uncontrolled motor functions,
extreme (unhealthy) activity. The child is unbalanced, hysterical, acts with no
consideration for the circumstances, unable to follow accepted rules of
behavior. It is usually difficult for these children to adapt to school, they
are overly restless, absent-minded, continually put a strain on others and
provoke other children to wrong behavior. Sensing their defect, it seems like
they do everything to others "on purpose" — and a vicious circle
Hyperkinetic syndrome in its development has two tendencies. In one case,
with God’s help, through the competent tactics of parents, psychologists,
teachers and doctors, it weakens and disappears by 12-14. In the other — it
transforms into psychopathy, and the individual becomes even less able to
adjust, more isolated. The second tendency is extremely unpleasant.
Among neurotic disorders beginning in childhood or youth are tics —
involuntary, fast, non-rhythmic movements of a limited group of muscles
(blinking, twitching); non-organic eneuresis (involuntary urination day or
night inappropriate to age); stuttering.
School neurosis can develop during the earliest school years. The reasons
for this are the psychological unpreparedness of the child for school,
unacceptance by his peers, humiliation, assault, excessive strictness and
inexperience of the teacher. The child suffering from this neurosis looks
depressed, refuses to go to school, imitates (often unknowingly) different
illnesses. Parents should be attentive, be able to recognize his spiritual
difficulties and help him. A medical consultation or the advice of an experienced
psychologist would not be amiss.
But it is important to remember that child psychology does not enter into
ideas such as faith in God and Orthodox spirituality, Christian virtue,
churchgoing, does not mention sins and passions, that is, the science of the
soul is developed, while at the same time denying the existence of the human
soul and ignoring the Creator. While such secularization is possible, say, in
geometry or car building, it is totally impermissible in a science studying the
laws of a person’s spiritual life.
Psychology, while correctly expounding on many particulars and details,
unfortunately does not see the whole picture. Raising children in the spirit of
true virtue, not fictitious spiritual and emotional health, is impossible
without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and without the help of God. Only by
God’s grace does the person’s soul become purified, enlightened and filled with
understanding. Without grace it is not only incapable of perfection, but it
cannot comprehend the entire tragedy of its disastrous state.
By God’s mercy, books and articles by religious psychologists are now
appearing, including priests which were educated in psychology before entering
the priesthood. Thus, the spiritual vacuum of psychology is being filled, which
for well-known reasons has been dominant the last eight decades.
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