baby

Fear of being judged is the real reason parents don't get help.

When my son was three year -old a friend of a friend at playgroup told me he had “serious antisocial issues”.

She informed me that he had antisocial personality disorder, that he would “probably be expelled” by the time he was six and I’d be dealing with the fallout until he was a young adult.

She told me that he had behavioural problems stemming from a serious disorder.

He had just turned three.

He still wore nappies and played with Thomas the Tank Engine. He stomped in puddles on rainy days and made me finger paintings to say I love you and, when he wasn’t understood or no one would play with him, on occasion, he whacked other kids with his hands, or pushed them in rush to the morning tea table.

I remember feeling humiliated and terrified all at the same time.

A friend of a friend at playgroup told me my son had “serious antisocial issues”. Image supplied.

My baby boy branded psychotic, all because I asked advice on how to stop him hitting other kids at day care.

What I should have done at the time was seek help or advice from a professional, someone to put my mind at ease, (not some nosey mother at playgroup) but as we know hindsight is a wonderful thing and the fear of parental judgement is not.

What I’ve since learnt is that my bright beautiful boy had neither a psychotic disorder, nor behavioural issues, that, in fact, he was hitting other kids because no one else (except his Mama) could understand him. He was frustrated. Some speech therapy and a whole heap of cuddles eventually sorted him out, but not before much angst and heartache was felt by me.

If I’d sought out that professional early enough, his speech problems would have been picked up earlier. But I didn’t. I was worried what they would think of me.

It turns out I am not alone.

A new study has found that one in three Australian parents are reluctant to seek advice about their children’s behaviour or development for fear of being judged.

The survey from Pregnancy, Birth and Baby has found Australians rank healthcare professionals, including GPs, pharmacists and maternal child health nurses, third as the source they turn to most for information on their child’s behaviour and development, behind friends and family.

Dianne Zalitis, Clinical Lead of Pregnancy, Birth and Baby said that while friends and family are an “invaluable source of support for parents”, as many of us know they don’t always have the most up-to-date and accurate information.

The study looked at why parents don’t seek help and they found fear of judgment was the main reason with 33 per cent being afraid of being judged or seen as a failure.

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Shauna and her son. Image supplied.

More than half of the Australian parents surveyed said they have compared themselves or their child’s progress unfavourably with others.

With eight in 10 Australians turning to the internet for health advice, the survey found that parents seek out professionals when online, with the top three sources they trust being sites that have information from medical professionals, sites that specialise in children’s issues and Australian Government websites.

Ms Zalitis says that the free Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service meets this criteria. The government funded initiative offers parents free confidential support, guidance and advice from maternal child health nurses seven days a week, via phone, video call or through online.

She says that parents need to realise they aren’t alone.

Parents who are seeking advice are overwhelmingly concerned about sleeping problems, with it, not surprisingly being the biggest concern for almost two thirds of parents (62 per cent) during their baby’s first year - the survey found.

Parents of toddlers (38 per cent) and pre-schoolers (41 per cent), say experiencing and managing behavioural challenges with their child is a key concern.

According to the survey, 32 per cent of Australian parents will seek advice about tantrums and discipline from friends and family, ahead of seeking this advice from a maternal child health nurse (22 per cent) or GP (10 per cent).

Other issues such as whether their babies were hitting milestones appropriately were also a concern, and when babies became toddlers it was their behaviour that kept parents up at night.

“Behavioural issues in children such as biting, hitting, scratching, arguments or tantrums, are a real worry for parents,” said Ms Zalitis.

She urges parents to seek out professional advice.

“If parents are concerned about their child’s behaviour, they should call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. Our maternal child health nurses will be able to provide useful guidance, strategies and support to navigate through this challenging time,” she said.

If only someone had told me that three years ago I could have told the other mother to stick to playing with play dough.

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