Trying a new "I'm not available" tact with difficult child 1

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    difficult child 1 was off school all last week and (no surprise) his IBS was much better -- less stress, less anxiety = less pain.

    It was also no surprise that this morning he was feeling crummy again when he got up. I do not doubt that his pain is real. But I do believe that I may be too available for him to call to be picked up from school when he's not feeling well. So today I wanted to try an experiment to see if he can tough it out without me dropping everything to come get him.

    He's texted me 3 times this morning to complain of feeling bad, of feeling cold, and of a small scratch on his hip that he says hurts a lot. (It really does look like a very minor scratch -- he has no idea how he got it, either). But I very nicely and with much compassion told him before I took him to school that I would NOT be able to come pick him up today because I have a plumber coming between 11 and 1 and I have to be at home. I really do have a plumber coming, and although I COULD rush over to pick him up if there was an emergency, I want him to try to cope with his discomfort on his own. Maybe this seems cruel, but I think it's something we need to try. Kinda reminds me of how we would gradually let him cry himself to sleep when he was little (he was very clingy as a baby). Each night we waited five minutes longer before going in to comfort him, and eventually he was able to settle down on his own.

    We'll see what the day brings...
  2. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I think it is a great plan. Either he will be able to cope and that will be helpful for him to know or he won't, which will be good for you to know. I hope that he is able to cope and his day is ok.
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    Yes, this sounds like a very good plan. I have learned that at its very heart - IBS is a condition that allows the body to "escape" from uncomfortable situations. eg...If I get sick enough, I can go home and not face __________.

    on the other hand - the distress of IBS is very real, and very painful and uncomfortable. In addition to not rushing in to pick your son up, I'd make sure that he has someplace he can go at school (like the nurse's office), if he needs to spend a few minutes to collect himself and calm his anxiety. Often, if a person can learn to give themselves a "time out" in times of stress, they can relieve their anxiety before the IBS really starts to escalate.

    I wish him luck!
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Well, it didn't really work.

    Despite ignoring his texts, the nurse called me at 12:10pm to say he'd been laying in the health office for about a half hour and she asked me what I wanted to do. I explained my "plan" and asked her to tell him I still couldn't come right away and that I wanted him to try to go to his 5th period class after lunch. About another 1/2 hour later he called this time, telling me he just couldn't do it. So I told him the plumbers still weren't at our house yet but would be any minute (which was true) and that I couldn't come just yet. I told him I wanted him to at least go to his 5th period class to get the assignments he missed plus today's homework and then I'd come get him. So he did manage to go to class for 5 minutes and get the information he needed and then I picked him up. All told, he made it to 2.5 classes out of 5 today. :(

    Our psychiatrist finally called in the clonidine rx so I am very excited about trying it tonight to see if it will help his pain tomorrow!!!
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    From our experience, if anxiety is a factor, you won't succeed in forcing the issue through until the anxiety is dealt with.

    What we did - we had a rule. School work during school hours. It doesn't matter where you are or how you feel, you WILL work on schoolwork, even in the nurse's office or even if you're home in your pyjamas. Even if you have a fever and are in between throwing up. School. Work. During. School. Hours.

    WHat I often ended up having to do, if I had a day when I could not cancel out in order to go fetch difficult child 3 from school, I would keep him home so I could get my stuff done. I had to cancel too many of my own doctors appointments, just because I would be on the way there and the school would call asking me to come get him. Or I would leave him there (as you tried to do) and I'd find he had been in the sick room all day, with no schoolwork left with him. Even if he is not deliberately trying to call in sick just to get out of work, the conditioned response rapidly sets in and he associates schoolwork with increased stress, and claiming to feel sick with reduced stress=no schoolwork. A bad conditioned response. We were able to reverse the conditioned response with the schoolwork at home, always, when he was home during school hours. He learned that he felt better while at home, and could actually do his schoolwork more successfully and with less stress. This taught his body that schoolwork was not the problem.

    difficult child 3 had been a correspondence student for three years when we travelled to NZ. But even though we thought he had a better understanding of his own stress levels, we discovered while there that he did not realise just how bad anxiety could make him feel. He was very anxious one day, convinced he was dying. When I said, "It's OK, it's anxiety, just take some deep breaths and keep telling yourself, 'I am safe," he could not believe that mere anxiety could make him feel this bad. It was as we left the place that was making him feel anxious, and experiencing his symptoms ease as we drove away, that helped him finally begin to realise how crippling anxiety can be, and that it is not a wimpy thing to say, "I am so anxious I can't cope."

    Every time there is an anxiety experience that he survives, he learns he will get through. But it is taking time and a lot of understanding.

    I would make it very clear to the school - he MUST always have work to do, even if he is in the nurse's room. It's not punishment, it just IS. The work has to be done and feeling sick is not a get out of jail free card. You throw up, then pick up the pen again. If your life is going to be a constant struggle with IBS, you have to find ways to meet your obligations in the teeth of it, and not simply wait for it to go away.

    And over time, as you slog through, your body slowly learns that the work has to be done, and the stress actually reduces while they work and as they complete stuff. The build-up of work not completed only adds to the stress.

    We tend to first think of sick kids in terms of putting them to bed and coddling them. Same with ourselves if we become acutely ill - we go to bed until we feel better. But with any chronic illness, life will pass you by if you don't find ways to soldier on. So we have to teach our children to do the best they can, while still dealing with the illness (whether physical or emotional). It's not cruel; it's life. But we do sometimes have to get inventive!

    I think you did a wise thing, but you are also dependent on other people following through. You compromised well. I would praise him for making the effort and having the work to do.

  6. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thanks Marg. You are right, he does have to find a way to cope and function in his daily life. You make a good point about having him work on stuff while in the health office. He doesn't have text books with him at school (he keeps a set at home) and would have to go to the library to check out the books to do most of his work... unless of course there's a worksheet he can complete... or reading from one of his alternate reading books. I'll look into how we can ensure he has something to do while he's in the health office. Usually when I go to pick him up, he's curled up in a ball on the cot. :( When he does come home, I do try to get him to work, but sometimes he just feels so crummy all he wants to do is sleep. Hopefully we'll eventually get past that.

    I just gave him his first dose of clonidine... fingers crossed we see some improvement in the next few days!
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We let difficult child 3 work while in bed. Set up a lap desk and I kept supplying him with snacks. For a while when he was feeling insecure, difficult child 3 wanted to snuggle on the bed with me, so I had him supplied with worksheets and pens while I got on with my reading or writing. It was interesting - difficult child 3 would generally have a foot or hand in physical contact with me while he worked. But fairly soon he was able to sit at the table and work.

    Whatever it takes...

  8. meggy1

    meggy1 Guest

    I was so glad to see this post when I logged on. My difficult child is currently having a tantrum about going back to school tomorrow. difficult child who is an "Explosive Child" and has been diagnosed with overactive bladder and Interstitial Cystitis (Bladder) has been home the past two weeks because of the pain and medications. She is scheduled for a scope and biopsy of her bladder in two weeks. We picked up work from school from her but most of it did not get done even though we reminded her and tried to sit with her to do it on a daily basis. Normal punishments and discipline methods do not work on her. We feel that since she is not doing the work being sent home then she needs to be at school. We are also looking into homebound instruction until after the holidays (this was done last year very successfully) this way the teachers will come to our house, help her with the work and she'll be kept up to date.

    My stress right now is knowing that tomorrow morning is going to be like a war. Her screaming at me that she doesn't feel good and can't go to school, me telling her for the nth time that she has to learn to deal with some of the pain and to go to school since the pain hasn't been as bad the past few days. She is upstairs crying about it now stressing over tomorrow morning. Add into the mix my 9yr who is currently suffering from asthma attacks and the stress that's going to be going on in the morning isn't going to help her. Any Suggestions, ideas, prayers, miracles would be appreciated. :help:
  9. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Ummm... a nice glass of merlot? :wine:

    All kidding aside, I completely understand how stressful this is. Have you tried offering small rewards for completed work? Something like, "After you've finished assignment A, you can do X (watch a TV program, play a video game for a predetermined period of time, play a board game with you, you get the idea...)." My difficult child 1 does not really respond well to punishment either. Revoking privileges has only pushed him deeper into depression, too. So I'm trying to think of ways to chunk the work into more manageable parts and reward him with short breaks to do whatever he wants in between.
  10. meggy1

    meggy1 Guest

    Currently working with a therapist (along with reading the Explosive Child). Have tried the rewards system but that hasn't helped either. It's like she gets something stuck in her head and her way is right and everyone else is wrong and nobody believes her. I actually emailed her teachers (had met with them two weeks ago) and explained the situation about the work that has not gotten done. Hoping they will have some ideas that may help even if it includes her staying late or going to school early to catch up. Just dreading the fighting that I know will be there in the morning. Maybe I should just get up extra early to get myself ready for work then take my medications so they'll have time to kick in before she gets up. Also, work on a way to protect my 9 year old in the process :-( I just keep telling myself there are people out there with worse problems then ours, or who have tragically lost children and that eventually difficult child will get better. It's the getting there that's the hard part. This forum does help with knowing I'm not alone :)
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Forget battles. She has to deal with her own education, but you are there for support. Forget punishments. However, if it's school hours, then alternative entertainment is not permitted. She MUST engage in education. However, there are many ways in which to do this. Engage her in making some choices. LAy out a range of education options for her.

    Something we've done - "If you're really feeling that sick, then go to bed and sleep. But if you're awake, then you can read a book or watch an educational DVD while you are wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. I'll make popcorn and watch the film with you."
    It's often a good starting point, especially for osmeone who is feeling sick.

    Another line she undoubtedly needs - "HOney, life stinks. It's not fair that you feel sick. It really is not fair. But it is even less fair, that you feel too sick to get any work done at all. If/when you finally get better, you will need to pick up again with your education. You will unfortunately be a lot further behind by then, unless you can get some work done now. BEcause you're not well, the workload can be condensed so you can still achieve the same learning outcomes, without having so much to have to do. But I can't do this for you; YOU have to take the reins of your own education, and go for a gallop. Your body might be conspiring against you at the moment but at least you can count on your brain."

    And a point for you - I've been where your daughter is, health-wise. I remember my mother telling me that nothing turns your brain to mush like real/urinary tract problems. There's something about that nagging, drag-down ache and obsession over each toilet visit, to really take your mind away from study. She will need to do her work in short grabs only. A suggestion from what works for us - we bought a bulk bag of mini-chocolate bars. difficult child 3 earns one mini bar every time he puts in half an hour of constant effort on his work. It's not output-bsed, because I know that all he needs, is the genuine effort.

    I strongly urge you to involve your daughter in her own education. She needs to know that she has to make a bigger effort because she is ill, and that this is not fair. Not at all. But it doesn't change the fact that every day she gets older without having put in the same amount of work as her healthy classmates, she is falling further behind. But there are a lot of stories of kids who were too sick, who were able to submerge their minds in study and distract themselves from their illness and actually come back to school ahead of the others. But it takes her making the effort. SHE has to know she has to do this; you can help by running work back and forth to the school as and when she completes it. We actually found (share this with her) that even though difficult child 3 was sometimes very ill, he was able to work many times faster at home, and still have time to nap when he needs it. Suggest she break up the tasks into half hour chunks and also plan in rest breaks as well as snack breaks.

    Kids in hospital get tutors and schoolwork, even if they're dying of cancer. There is no freedom from academia, because the human mind requires stimulation and frankly, needs the chance to learn while you're still young enough to learn fast and well.

    I hope she can take control herself, and that you can help her feel in control. With so much in her life NOT in her control, she needs to feel ownership somewhere.

    If you need to, tell her I went through something similar (I was a bit older, I was at uni but I had nobody to care for me, I lived alone) and this was how I coped with the need to look after myself but also get my study done.


  12. ML

    ML Guest

    I think you're absolutely doing the right things. this is an opportunity to learn he can work though difficult stuff on his own.