Don't know where to turn to..

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by zeph, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. zeph

    zeph New Member


    I'm not sure if I am ok to be here and post or not but it's worth a try. The very short version of the background is this: I was married to my ex husband for 4 years, he was (is) an abusive alcoholic. Our difficult child was 3 when I finally managed to get his father out of our house. For the 1st 3 years of difficult child's life he witnessed his father emotionally and physically abusing me. When he finally went for my son I got him out to make us all safe. Since his departure (3 years ago) he has married and had a son with the woman he was having an affair with and she has tried eradicating difficult child from ex's life, which coupled with ex's alcoholism means difficult child only sees his father for between 1-2 hours a week. ( a quick visit to a drive-thru or to hire video games then home again is standard). difficult child's father swears every other word, threatens other drivers while out in his car and is generally volatile and aggressive.

    difficult child loves his father sooo much, despite all this and often writes false stories about the time they spend together in stories in school. He was always a little difficult as a toddler, nothing that seemed out of the ordinary for a 2/3 yr old boy though. But since ex left his behaviour has become too hard to the point that my easy child has expressed she feels she is being driven out by him and may go and live with her father (different). :( difficult child's behaviour is pulling us apart. He is very aggressive towards myself and easy child, throws the biggest, loudest and most destructive tantrums frequently. He constantly tells us both to shut up, f*** off, calls us stupid and says he is the boss. (His father did tell him that he was the man of the house when he left & may well still be doing that). He throws things at us, has punched me in the face, kicked us both repeatedly, etc get the picture. He ignores me when I ask him to do anything, won't dress himself anymore, screams if we don't run around after him giving him things he demands, etc. If I threaten to take toys off him or send him to his room , etc he screams that he doesn't care then pulls the house apart trying to retrieve said toys or batters his bedroom door with anything he can find trying to get out. All of this generally starts 1st thing when he wakes and shouts demands for things immediately. It heightens when easy child gets home from school, following her around refusing to let her do her homework or eat her dinner in peace as he kicks her and takes things off her. It's a real struggle to get him to bed and he generally spends up to 3 hours coming up and down the stairs asking for things and refusing to sleep. He has only slept thru the night 4/5 times in 6 & a half years, calling me up and down the stairs all thru the night.

    That was the bad side but there is a good side...difficult child is a perfect pupil. Every teacher he has had since age 2 has adored him, called him a role model for other pupils and used him to keep the naughty kids at bay in class. He is on the governments gifted register for his abilities, particularly his literary abilities (reading at age 11 when he was 4). He has a very, very loving nature when not throwing a massive strop, makes me laugh and wows me with his intelligence and curiosity regarding such issues as mortality, history, life after death, saintly people and suchlike. His behaviour is definitely worse when easy child is around and I wonder if he is envious of her very close and regular relationship with her father. It seems to us that he treats me just as his father treated me, scarily similar to be honest despite every attempt to help him, nurture him and draw all that negativity from the past out of our lives.

    Oh, I've gone on for too long I'm sorry :( I have just been so stressed and had no-one to talk to about this as I am taking it all very personally and am so embarrassed about it. Basically I am too scared to take him to the doctors because I don't know how it will be handled and if that just emphasises my failure. I have tried every form of discipline Jo Frost and every other child psychologist recommends in every book and tv programme I can find. He simply flips between charming and full of rage all day and night and I spend more and more time crying than even when dealing with his father's abuse before him.

    I think I just needed to get that out and now go read the other posts and try to establish what I am missing in all this. How did I raise my easy child and yet struggle consistently with difficult child...? :(

    Thankyou for taking the time to read my ramble (if you made it this far, lol) any suggestions or thoughts would be gratefully received.

  2. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Zeph - Welcome! As many people have said, and many will - I am glad you found us - but still - sorry you had to.

    First off, please, please - do not blame yourself. It is not your failure. I'm seeing that you are trying very hard.

    I don't know how the laws are written in England. Heck, I'm not sure I understand the ones here! You say your son barely sees his father - and I know this is hard - but is the visitation court ordered? And... Did his behavor change suddenly, or was it always there? Because if X's new wife is trying to get difficult child out of the picture, you never know what she might do. I'm a stepmother myself, and though I love my two, sometimes I just wish they'd go stay at their mom's for a while. And then I feel bad, because we have custody for good reason. And if your X was abusive to you...

    Has difficult child ever had a full evaluation? You said that you haven't taken him to the doctors. That would be a good place to start. I don't know if they call them neuropsychs there... But I do know we found out some things about my stepson, Jett, that we needed to know.

    What about any kind of counseling? Honestly, an "amicable" divorce is hard on kids (well, the adults, too). So anything with any ugliness takes its toll. The stories he comes up with sound like what he wishes life was like. This isn't terribly uncommon.

    When I first joined the board, I was ready to throw in the towel. I'm still frustrated, but I have a lot of people here who back me up, jump down my throat when I need it, and generally just love me. You'll find that too. Few of us have met in real life, but that doesn't matter. Anyway, if you can get hold of a copy of the book "The Explosive Child" by Dr. Ross Greene, you will find it eye-opening. Not all of the approaches work for all of our children, and some only work part of the time, but the information in it is invaluable.

    {{{{{HUGS}}}}} Welcome to our family!
  3. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Welcome, Zeph. I love your avatar - it is beautiful.

    You are definitely in the right place. Others here have been where you are, there is help. A lot of the people here are in the US, but not all of us. You would not be the only UK person.

    A few questions - you say your ex's new wife is trying to erase difficult child from his life. How do you know this? Unless you hear it from her, I would not trust the information.
    How old is your daughter? She sounds like she's being put through the wringer, as are you.

    Some warning signs I see, that I think you haven't recognised - his behaviour starts when he wakes, he is wakeful at night and a restless sleeper, he is very demanding, he is aggressive and violent. All these could be because of his father but I'm not so sure, once you mentioned the final clue - he is very bright and doing well in school, especially in reading/writing. That set off my alarm bells big time, but hopefully in a good way for you. That described my difficult child 3 - and he is NOT the product of a broken home with a violent alcoholic father. Not in any way. But we had the same stuff from him.

    What I want you to do -

    1) Look up "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It's already been suggested to you.

    2) Look up Asperger's Syndrome, hyperlexia, ADHD and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). If you go to, you can find a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) questionnaire there. It can't be used to formally diagnose, but run the test, print it out regardless of the results, and take it to the GP. Keep a copy at home, you may want to refer to it in five years' time.

    3) Get your son to a neuropsychologist assessment. You will need a referral from your GP, you might have to fight for it if the GP is too ready to blame childhood trauma and a violent father. But while that may be an aggravating factor, I think your son has something else underlying it all.

    If an underlying condition similar to the ones I mentioned does get diagnosed, that will be very good news. it is manageable and in fact can work out in the long run to be good news.

    I do feel that counselling of some sort is needed, for all of you. It can also help set the wheels in motion for more formal help.

    I do wonder about the dad - some people become alcoholics because they self-medicate for something or other. Or they're trying to damp down extreme emotions such as panic, anxiety, anger, fear, self-loathing...

    I remember the huge problems we had with difficult child 3 when he was tiny. He was too little to be able to deal with his own frustration and anger, and it would flare up big time and violence would break out. As he became more skilled at expressing himself, and we became more skilled at managing him, he was easier to manage. But we had problems at school with other kids who used to deliberately try to upset him in order to make him explode - it was fun for them to do this. It was abusive and set him up for some very bad experiences and taught him some bad behaviours.

    I used to keep a communication book, it travelled between home and school. I would write in it anything relevant ("He didn't sleep well last night and was unsettled this morning. Be aware, he will probably have a shorter fuse today, you might need to send him to his quiet space more readily than usual") and the teacher would also write about his day, or respond.
    Yesterday I caught difficult child 3 reading over an old communication book from when he was 8 years old. I asked him why - he said he was remembering. I asked if it was a good memory or a bad memory, he said, "Both." I haven't had the chance to double-check what specifically he was reading, but I suspect it was a bad period where he kept getting put on detention for behaviour caused by other kids. There were also incidents where difficult child 3 reported being bullied, but the teacher, after interviewing the bullies who all said, "We didn't do it, we weren't there - see, we can all vouch for one another being somewhere else," the teacher told difficult child 3 that because of his autism, he didn't always observe events accurately. This was so wrong on so many levels - a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid can often report MORE accurately. But it meant that difficult child 3 came home and said, "Mr S said I must have misunderstood or seen it wrong. But I could have sworn that I didn't just fall over while by myself; I was so sure I saw Jim stick his foot out to trip me over."

    difficult child 3 is now 17. In some ways he is a 10 yo. In other ways he is an adult. Intellectually he is a genius. Socially he is a little kid. But from what you describe of your son, IF your son has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), it would not be as severe as difficult child 3's. That is also good news for you.

    Check it out. There could be a lot more you could do, to improve your life fairly quickly. Further improvement takes a bit longer, but two things can rapidly bring improvement:

    1) medications (if appropriate). While medications are claimed to be over-rescribed, for some kids they are as vital as insulin to a diabetic.

    2) Simply knowing there is a diagnosis, can help a kid, especially a bright kid, calm their behaviour. "It's not my fault after all."

    We saw this with difficult child 1. Not with difficult child 3 (although the medications caused massive improvement fast). difficult child 3 was not able to be told his diagnosis until he was old enough to comprehend; he was diagnosed tentatively when he was 3, more formally when he was 4, and was still mostly non-verbal at the time. If I had written it down he would have understood better, but although he was reading fluently at 4, he did not have the understanding to go with it.

    What is your son like as a mimic? Also, does he tell complex lies? By this I mean, does he, if challenged as to why he didn't do his homework, make up a complex story about a UFO flying down and the aliens getting out and wanting to take his homework back to their home planet as a sample of what Earth children can do? Or will he go for a simple lie, such as "I did do it? But I spilled something on it and had to throw it away!" Especially if it is a lie he has heard someone else tell.

    Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids can lie, if they are simple lies. Over time as they mature, some can learn to tell complex lies. But they tend to be bad at lying, and over time most learn that truth is easier.

    High IQ and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) sometimes go together. SImilarly, ADHD is also linked.

    Anyway, welcome. Sorry you need us, I hope we've given you some help. Let us know how you get on.

  5. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Have you tried giving your son melatonin at bedtime? Works wonders for my difficult child. He used to take hours to fall asleep. Now he falls asleep easily.
  6. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Zeph - Welcome. It is traumatic for kids to witness domestic violence and the results can look like other disorders. I would suggest you find a local domestic violence organization and find out if they have child therapists who specialize in DV or can recommend some. I think your son should see a therapist but I think that therapist needs to understand the effects of DV on kids. You might also get some support for you because my guess is your sons behavior may trigger reactions in you of your own experience with your ex. That can be very tough. I assume your easy child also witnessed the violence and so sheh too may needs some help in working through what she saw and experienced. Good luck.
  7. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hey Zeph! Just wanted to post a quick "welcome to the crowd". Never feel that you're not allowed to post or that you might be asking too many questions! That's how we all ended up here - and it's a wonderful place to be!

    Have you ever noticed if he's oversensitive to sounds, sights, smells or textures? He could have some sensory issues as well.

    Gotta go - I'm sick and have to get to bed (eeeewww - school tomorrow - up at the crack of dawn!).

    Feel better - it's a great group of people on here!

  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Agree with looking into Asperger's Syndrome. Sounds a lot like it.

    Welcome to the board :)
  9. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome! It is common for gifted, highly intelligent people to not 'get' others and not feel like they fit in. His anger could stem from just being different. Very frustrating indeed.

    I was also thinking aspergers as I was reading, just from it sounding similar to others posts. I am no expert.
  10. zeph

    zeph New Member

    WOW !!! Thankyou all soooo much for your replies !! I am so grateful for your kindness and suggestions. I want to to go through them all again and reply to you properly but that will have to wait until difficult child is in bed as time away from him is limited. In the meantime I wanted you all to know how grateful I am for your replies.

    I will be back in a couple of hours to post more.

    Thankyou all again for the warm welcome and your ideas :)

  11. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Zeph welcome to the board.

    You've got some great advice from the others. I was thinking of some other little details, like has he had a physical, checked thyroid function, blood count etc? During one of our many crises, our gfg13 was found to have an extremely low iron level, which contributed to many of his problems at home and school. Our kids in general can be more prone to thyroid issues -- I looked up the mechanism once but it was too complicated for the brain cells I had available at the time. I was told to ask for a TSH and free T4.

    What do you think your ex was/is self-medicating for with alcohol? Is there any mental health history there to help give you clues about your kiddo? How about on your side of the family? Mom, aunts etc. (No need to answer here -- just some ideas)

    I think the PTSD is something to look into -- his brain is traumatized by the abuse which means it remains in a state of hyperarousal. by the way your brain must be feeling something similar, and your easy child's too, as was mentioned above. HUGS. You're going to need to take good care of yourself. That's a hard step (was for me) but a necessary one. Also you are breaking a vicious cycle and creating a healthy one. That takes a lot of energy -- to change patterns and ways of thinking. Get lots of rest, drink water and eat good food. You will need to be rested and fed for this challenge. Your kids will benefit to see that you are taking care of yourself.

    You? A failure? Ahem, excuse me. I think you are a strong woman who is doing everything she can to help her kids. It must have take an uber-effort for you to come here and write your post, yet you did, in the face overwhelming stress and fatigue. You will figure out what is going on with your little guy. It takes time to unroll, though -- little clues along the way for the next many years of his life.

    You can do it though. I recommend little steps at a time. Otherwise -- overwhelm. How I hate overwhelm.

  12. Jena

    Jena New Member

    hi and congratulations first off! leaving an abusive situation is never easy so good for you! you have changed your kids lives and your own in ways you probably dont even see yet. i walked a similar path so i can appreciate the effort and courage it took to do what you did.

    sooo i have a diff take on this. My advice would be to find a therapist first for your son, someone whose worked with kids to give him the opportunity to vent out his feelings in the right setting and with someone that he isnt' emeshed with a neutrel party. I'd also look into some type of physical activity that he could become engaged in, a sport maybe or some type of class that he could take. he has alot of aggression it sounds like and he needs somewhere to vent out all that physical aggression and anger in a safe setting and not at home with-you or easy child.

    here in the us we have what's called "BIG BROTHERS" its an agency that partners men with-boys that either do not have a father or that have minimal time with-them. it gives the child the opportunity for male bonding, also for him to see appropriate male interactions and behaviors that are non threatening and respectful. maybe you could locate something like that where you are. i think that would help him alot find his way thru this.

    it sounds like to me h'es acting out which is soo normal based on what he's experienced. you have all been thru a trauma and survived it thanks to you. it sounds like he's acting like dad and you and easy child are like oh no not again!! i don't blame you, he can't act that way in your home it's unacceptable. yet it makes sense he's acting like the father that he misses. thing about kids they can literally be kicked by their parent and they still want them. soo odd, yet soo true.

    i'd try that approach all of it together though. he's going to need somewhere to get that aggression out safely once he starts to hopefully open up in therapy he'll get angry and it'll get worse before it gets better probably. thing is i think to me his anger is learned behavior that with the right supports and time can be unlearned and learn new and appropriate ways to handle how he's feeling.

    i think the only time i would do an evaluation. is if you start the therapy and the other stuff and he's getting alot worse. than it may be time to talk about a low dosage medication just to calm him with- a doctor and via an evaluation so that ther therapy is effective.

    good luck, your a brave woman and a good person. you and your kids are going to be great in time. it'll just take time to heal. it took us a long time too.