Monday, 30 January 2012

Calpol or chocolate cake…choosing the right medicine

Kids hurt themselves right? How do you know when it’s genuine, and when it’s not? And as a parent, is it your job to minimise the stress and pain that your child feels?

Well, let’s tackle the genuine or not bit first…
When Mini was little, he had accidents. We often put this down to his flat feet which made him slightly clumsier than most toddlers. We spent quite a few hours down at our local A&E, and our out of hours clinic – part of this I think was probably due to us being vaguely neurotic first time parents, checking out every little rash and bump, but mostly due to his genuine pain after bumping his head or discomfort from an incredibly high temperature.

These days, Mini is rarely ill, and never seems to hurt himself. Well, he seems to hurt himself frequently – he ‘fake’ trips over and ‘I’ve hurt myself’, or pretends to bump into the furniture and ‘ouch, it really hurts’. Some of the time Mini is copying Dollop, sometimes he really does trip, but you and I both know that gently tapping your head against a soft sofa cushion does not hurt and slightly bending your finger back does not result in a broken arm as Mini would have you believe. Mini also tends to develop a headache as I’m administering Calpol to his teething sister…he’s very clever, his head hurts exactly when he sees me pick up the bottle!

These fake injuries occur several times a day at least. But Mini is so rarely ill. Just once since September in fact when he was sick on and off for around 24hours, and he had two days off school as a result. Before that, I have no idea when he was last poorly. The only time he ever had off his 2 years at nursery was when he had Chicken Pox! Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased he's not a poorly child, it just seems a bit unusual when his schoolfriends are dropping like flies! And I can’t remember the last time he actually cried with pain. I mean proper tears. On those rare occasions he’s fallen hard, he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He just gets up and carries on.
So what’s genuine? Well, to me there is a certain cry that tells me when he really is in pain, and then of course there are the physical symptoms – bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea for example.  I think I’m pretty good at identifying the genuine times, so why does Mini insist that these little trip-ups are so painful, when they clearly aren’t. Does he think he can fool me? Does he think at all?

Now, to answer the bit about my job…well, I think it is my job to make my son feel better when he’s ill, to minimise the stress and pain, and maximise the comfort and healing process. So on those rare occasions Mini has been ill, I’ve done what I can – I made him the foods he likes (as long as he’s not being sick), and let him eat it on the sofa, I let him watch copious amounts of children’s tv, I pandered to him, and held the sick bucket in the right place! At the same time, I’ve always tried to make Mini feel better when he’s grazed a knee, or something similar by giving it a kiss and rubbing it better, and then pretty much brushing it off and then distracting him, after all, the more you dwell on it, the more it really does hurt!

Are these two questions linked then? Do I make being ill and in pain such a positive experience that Mini pretends to be in pain so I’ll provide the same comfort that he gets when it’s real? Is it the opposite – does Mini not feel ill (or not tell me he’s ill) that often because I’ve just brushed off his previous ailments?
Does Mini have a sensory problem that makes him feel the gentle bumps but not the hard ones? Does he just have a high pain threshold? Or is he just being a contrary 5 year old?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that an often well-placed plaster can make all the difference whether it’s really needed or not, and hugs, kisses and chocolate cake are medicinal for us all!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Decisions, decisions...

This last two weeks, we have had to remove all choices as even the simple ones just seem too difficult for Mini. My mother-in-law asked me today if Mini had reacted to me removing his decisions, which got me thinking….I don’t think he’s even noticed that he’s not getting options anymore! Food is still an issue, and he’ll often want something other than what’s on his plate. And generally he’ll still say ‘I didn’t want that’, ‘But I wanted the other one’ or ‘Oh, I wanted something else’, but he’s not at any point said ‘But you didn’t let me decide’, or ‘I wanted to choose for myself’.  He’s basically reacting exactly the same way, but without the initial stress. We still forget sometimes, although me and the NC are trying our best, it’s easy to forget.

I approached a family support worker/health adviser some time ago as Mini had problems making choices. He’d spend an unimaginable amount of time making his mind up over something – I think I mentioned before that sandwich fillings is one issue, whether he wanted to sit on the sofa or on the floor to watch Cbeebies, apple or orange squash, shower or bath, pants or boxers etc.  Her advice was to limit his choices to two things. I’ll tell you the truth – we already did that, which is what I also told her. So her next piece of advice was to put a time limit on it, so we’d count to 3, and if Mini hadn’t made his mind up, then we’d choose on his behalf. Truth? Yep, we’d been doing that too! And although taking 15minutes to choose where to sit was infuriating, it was us imposing a time limit on it that actually escalated the issue – it gave him someone to blame if he didn’t like the choice….and of course, more often than not, because we’d taken control of the situation, he didn’t like it. Well you wouldn’t would you? But she was insistent that this process was the right thing to do, and we should stand firm with our imposed choice for him so he’d learn he had to choose if he wanted something. She also stressed that he needed to have choices, because it was allowing him to be independent, and would ensure he wouldn’t get frustrated (yeah, right!)

The professional advised it so of course it must be the best thing to do right? So we’ve carried on dutifully and I suppose we’re 18months down the line, and there is no improvement. He can’t make a decision quickly, and so we do it for him and it’s always wrong.  Is he being bloody-minded? Does he want to have control? Does he need to have control? Are we wrong? Should we allow him an infinite amount of time to make a simple choice? I don’t know the answers.

Thus our move to reduce the amount of choices he needs to make – they clearly stress Mini out. The resulting behaviour stresses me and the NC out. Are we doing the right thing? I don’t know, but it feels better all round like this!

Monday, 23 January 2012

4 years today!

Another weekend over….phew. 

Saturday was relatively calm, with us all going on a family walk to our local bakery – this is a treat and not something we do very often, but Mini enjoys cakes and so does his sister, and it’s nice to get out for a bit of fresh air. Of course, though, whereas most parents like to tell their kids where they’re going, we kept it from Mini right until we got to the bakers, as often the excitement is just too much for him, and his behaviour deteriorates. This also means we have a good 20minutes of Mini asking ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘Where are we going’, but this is easy compared to the fallout we might otherwise experience! The positive from this visit was that Mini successfully made choices about what cake he wanted AND he chose one for Dollop too!
 Mini also spent some time upstairs in his room playing – this is quite a result, as just ‘playing’ for him is difficult, to do it by himself in a room on his own even harder, but he managed it for a good hour and a half. Not only does this give me and the NC time together, or 1:1 time with Dollop, or even just housework time, it’s nice knowing that Mini is doing something normal, like other kids, and managing to do something that other families take for granted. It certainly makes me feel a lot calmer when we have some time apart, and I would like to think that he benefits from it.

Sunday was less calm, with me and the NC having to tell Mini repeatedly to walk, not run around the house – he does have a habit of knocking Dollop flying, and our house really isn’t big enough.  We had several meltdowns about what he did and didn’t want to do, and when he did and didn’t want to do it! We had some calm around lunchtime when we treated the kids to lunch out, but as soon as Mini had finished he was crawling under the table, and over it too!
Throughout the day, we went through around 7 pairs of trousers as Mini seemed to have no control over his bladder, and on the occasions when we asked him to go to the bathroom because we knew he needed to go (you all know that tell-tale wriggly ‘I’m trying hard not to pee dance’ that I’m talking about), he just about point-blank refused.
I must admit, the NC lost patience a couple of times, and I spent much of the afternoon in the kitchen, taking cover from the meltdowns, arguments, refusals and wet trousers! So, my day was pretty productive with lots of cake for the week ahead (who am I kidding, it’ll last a couple of days if I’m lucky!).

And then today, well, today is a school day, so we’ll see what happens come 3.15! 4 years ago today, we met Mini for the first time – when he was just a year old. I remember the day very clearly, as I always will because it’s not just the day I met my son, but 8 years ago on the same day, I lost my dad. It always feels wrong to celebrate because of this, but we remember both, and usually take a minute to look through the album put together by Mini’s foster family, then we’ll light a candle for dad (or grandad-in-heaven as he is known to Mini and Dollop). It doesn’t seem possible that 4 years have passed, yet so much has also happened in that time! At the moment, I’m finding it really hard to look 4 years into the future, I can’t imagine what life will be like for us all. I hope the bad stuff improves, but mostly I hope that we are all happy, happier than we are now, creating as many memories as we have over the last 4 years.

I’ve had a few readers and twitterers in touch this past week with a lot of supportive comments, and it’s great to know that there are others in the same situation – not because I’d wish these difficulties on anyone, but because ‘normal’ mums don’t understand, and if you haven’t been through ‘it’ then it’s hard to appreciate just how hard life for our kids can be. Thanks for all your comments, please keep them coming! Advice, thoughts and links to useful info would all be very welcome x

Thursday, 19 January 2012

It was going so well...

So, after two lovely days with no tantrums, some good great behaviour with lots of stickers, happy faces and cuddles, we’re back to hard-to-deal-with Mini again today.

The only thing we’ve done differently the last two days is ignore his reading/words practice, which we normally do after snack time. Last night Dollop went to bed early, which gave Mini and I some 1:1 time, and given his great mood I took the opportunity to do it then, but it was very unplanned. So today, I decided again to ignore reading, and had planned some nice snacks and as a little treat, one of those chocolate gravel filled straws that turn the milk chocolate-flavoured… :-o

Before we’d even all got through the front door, Mini was having a meltdown. ‘Oh no’ he says,’ I think my trousers are wet, mummy yes, yes they are a little bit, but my pants are dry, so I haven’t wet myself have I. Oh, actually… waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, I won’t get my stiiiiiiiiiicker’ <Stamps feet, throws wet smelly trousers at Dollop, throws self on sofa>

I should explain that we’ve recently -at Mini’s request- gone back to a reward chart for ‘dry days’, so his disappointment was not about the wet trousers, but about not getting a sticker on the chart. Now this is a tiny victory – as he means he understood the consequence of wetting himself, sadly not soon enough to prevent it though.

So, this tantrum goes on <flings wet pants in same direction as wet trousers>, and I decide it’s either time-out (normally reserved for specific behaviours so that Mini learns the consequence for those particular things or given with a warning), or time-in (which we try to do often, hence a back injury that will never get better as long as I try to comfort a somewhat wriggly, strong, long 5 year old).
My choice? Time-in. Which works, unfortunately in the meantime this sets off Dollop, who really wanted a nice cuddle, but couldn’t because I was trying to comfort Mini. Ho-hum.

I put Mini down, and he instantly starts wailing again because ‘I don’t want to go all the way upstairs to get clean pants. I want my snack – NOW!’.  Deep breath as I try to think of a natural consequence of Mini wearing no pants – one that he’ll be vaguely bothered by….’You’ll get a cold bum, sitting at the table if you don’t have them on, and then you won’t enjoy your snacks’. It works, he’s upstairs quick as a shot, fetching pants, getting changed, and in no time at all, Mini and Dollop are both sat nicely at the table, eating snacks.

Now they’re playing with Dollop’s Happyland figures….she’s got the postman and his van, he’s got the fairies and rabbits! Oh, and there's a whoopee cushion involved too??!!??
Can it last the next 3 hours til bedtime??

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Getting the ball (and blog) rolling....

Well, hello there and welcome to the first ever post on this blog - about my son's behaviour and our journey to improve it.
Let me introduce myself....I'm Stix, my son is Mini - he's just 5. He started school in September, and over the last year and a half his behaviour has gone from typical toddler tantrums to full on major meltdowns. 
We've sought help in the past from our health visiting team and have been fobbed off, and then eventually were encouraged down the Webster-Stratton route, but over the last month, it's gotten worse so today I've bitten the bullet and spoken to my GP.

Life with Mini is hard-going - he displays typical 5 year old behaviour. He says no (quite a lot), he ignores us, he winds up his little sister. He also does things that I think are not typical - he screams....a lot, he tantrums, he gets so worked up about small things but can't calm himself down, he is very defiant, he wets himself (despite being successfully potty-trained when he was 2 and a half), he is perfect at school but a switch gets flicked when he gets home - very Jekyll/Hyde style, he doesn't have any vague understanding of consequences, cannot follow basic instruction, he doesn't learn from his mistakes, likes to control conversations, he copies his little sister's bad behaviour even after seeing her told off, he can't stand silence and has to make noise, he counts everything....and I mean everything, he is frequently unable to make choices - even simple ones like whether to have cheese or jam in his sandwich and he's never been able to occupy himself - he's needed me or the NC to play with him, and if we've been doing something else i.e the dusting, he'd rather join in then play on his own.

Life with Mini is also rewarding. It took us several years to get through the adoption process in full (but just 9 months for the prep course and homestudy) and then a bit longer to be matched with and introduced to Mini. He is special because of how he came to us, he is a very good looking little boy who makes us laugh, and melts everyone's hearts with his smile. Mini is a smart cookie who adores his little sister, and enjoys baking with mummy, learning to ride his bike with daddy, and geocaching with the whole family.

My mothers intuition is telling me that things aren't right.
My GP listened to me, did not make me feel neurotic, and is going to set up an observation session. I think we're properly on our way now to getting some help.