Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten…

with labels such as ADD, ADHD, slow, dyslexic, learning disabled, just average, and even gifted!

Guest post by Mariaemma

Did you know that midlife crisis begins in kindergarten? Yes, it's true! It is in kindergarten (and sometimes in preschool!) that our society begins the process of teaching children (see how this happened to The Innovative Educator and Aaron Iba here) that they are not smart enough, not quick enough, not working to potential, not high enough on the bell curve, not as good as the next guy...just plain not measuring up!

Midlife Crisis is the term we use to indicate a trauma experienced in the middle years —usually having to do with the question, “What am I doing with my life?” There are stories of extreme reactions that all of us have heard: like the guy who is a doctor, quits one day, and goes to live in the woods; as well as less dramatic cases like the financial consultant who enters the ministry.

There is nothing wrong with changing careers. But we don’t say midlife celebration, we say midlife crisis!  Crisis, because this time is often associated with feelings of unhappiness and confusion. Some people choose to “run away.” Others are afraid to change anything, then believe for the rest of their lives that they have been short changed. These are the people who say in later years, If only . . . or  I missed my chance to . . .

And, so, we have books such as Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar, How To Find Your Mission In Life by Richard Bolles, Life Launch by Hudson and McLean . . . the theme being that if you knew what you were meant to do in the world, you would have a purpose, which leads to fulfillment, happiness, and good relationships.

How do we figure out our purpose? Look at your natural talents and interests, the books say. Many include self-assessments to help you figure out what you love, just in case you don’t know anymore.

When children start school they bring their natural talents and gifts with them. Some alternative schools and models like those mentioned in this HuffPo Ed piece by The Innovative Educator embrace this type of learning.  However in traditional public schools, instead of encouraging individual gifts and talents, the first thing we do is teach them to put their interests on hold. We begin early the process of hiding the clues, the keys to our adult lives. We begin attaching labels: slow, average, ADD, LD . . . Years later the potential scientists or artists or teachers have the seeds buried so deeply they can no longer remember what set them on fire. And they need a book or a therapist to help them rediscover who they are.

I have a sign in my office that reads, 
“It is better to build children than repair adults.”

We need to pay attention to the child who needs to drum on the desk, the one who memorizes better when shooting baskets, the one who is interested in rocks. We need to stop labeling children as dysfunctional and start labeling the positives: keeps excellent rhythm, very coordinated, a whiz at the computer, great rapport with animals, natural comedian! Children who grow up learning about their own talents and styles become confident adults who achieve dreams and are enthusiastic about lifelong learning.

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? We can give children the right start by respecting each one’s unique learning needs. For those of us who are already grown up, see you at the bookstore!

©2011 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, M.S., Learning Style Specialist for School & Life Success
Mariaemma is co-author
Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, and co-founder of LearningSuccess™ Institute. For the last 20 years Mariaemma’s passion has been to bring out the star in every person - adult and child. She is especially concerned about adults who have grown up with negative school labels (Learning Disabled, ADD, lazy, not working to potential, average, below average, even gifted!), and the number of children who continue to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and/or medicated.

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  1. Hello Mariaemma,

    I agree completely that we all have unique talents and those can be recognized very early in all children.

    However, a midlife crisis is not about your innate talents ... it is about figuring out how to use them in pursuit of your purpose. Talents are not purpose. Talents are skills you use to express your purpose. AND you can only know your purpose through direct experience of life.

    You have to have some "water under your bridge" to know why you are here. That is why this Midlife Crisis re-adjustment of your life course takes place in our 30's and beyond.

    Support the children's talents. Get them out in the world with a full skill set. And let them get some experience ...knowing that at age 40 or so ... they have a good chance of discovering what they were always meant to do with those talents.

    My two cents,

    Dike Drummond MD

  2. Love your comment, Dike, and your website. I completely agree. The thing is, in order to figure out how to use your talents in pursuit of your purpose you first have to recognize what they are! Too many kids are robbed of this knowledge - so the damage is two-fold: 1) not knowing/realizing what your talents are which leads to 2) not knowing how to use them. I think we are saying basically the same thing. Thanks for the input - I appreciate it.