Helping an unsettled difficult child

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Andy, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Yesterday afternoon was strange. difficult child was "unsettled". He tried to pull me into an issue we faced a few months ago. He wanted me to apologize for something that he misunderstood (or purposely took the wrong way?). Since I am starting to figure out this parenting of a difficult child, I soon realized that what he was babbling about was not the issue. He was just "unsettled".

    I finally said, "What in the world is wrong with you? This is not like you. I want you to stop this right now. Go to your room and journal about what is going on." "I can't journal about it or you will know where I am." "What?" "I am going to run away." "That is ridiculous. You can not find a place to live and take care of yourself. Besides, this is a ridiculous reason to run away. You will stay home."

    He than felt he could no longer keep this up and broke down a little in an apologetic hug.

    I had him sit by me and watch a movie.

    Sometimes I will give him a nutricious snack, sometimes I tell him to go to his room and lay on his bed watching a show (hoping he will fall into a nap), most times I ask him to drink his gaterade or chocolate milk, sometimes I ask him to ride bike in the cul de sac, sometimes I ask him to take puppy outside.

    So, I am in search of ideas of what to do when a difficult child is "unsettled" which sometimes means an episode is approaching.

    Also, what do you do after the episode is over to get focus back on everyday life?
  2. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think you are handling it well. I think it would be great if you could get him to journal what he feeling at those times but that may be more difficult. Maybe after it has passed, at another time, he could go back and journal?

    I wish I had some suggestions-I really do think you are giving him some good options.
  3. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    With thank you, the hardest part is to get him to talk, to acknowledge that he is being antsy and provacative, and to get past those surface signs to whatever is really going on. It's usually easier if he has my complete undivided attention but even then it can be like pulling teeth.

    Once I can get him to start talking about whatever, I do try very hard not to be judgmental (Andy, this isn't a criticism at all - I think it may have more to do with the fact that we're in a different place age-wise with our kids and here we're trying very hard to prepare all of us for thank you's imminent "independence" - what Momma says doesn't necessarily go anymore). thank you's problems are usually pretty superficial sounding but his perception is so skewed that he really focuses in on them and they become the center of his thought processes. I can't tell you if it's working but I try *really* hard to use a problem solving method. For example:

    He's going to run away. Ok. Where will he live? On the streets, in a cardboard box. (Seriously, we've had this conversation.) How will he eat? He'll go through dumpsters. How will he get medications? He won't take medications. How will that help his quality of life? He doesn't care about quality of life. Hmm.... great silent pondering on my part now, mainly because I've got him talking *and* thinking and I want him to continue.

    Finally I ask why he's going to run away. The list is long but for example, peers are really "bugging" him. Really? I'm surprised because just last week he went to ABC with XYZ. How are they bugging him? Long laundry list of real and/or imagined slights (again, his perception is a real problem). So then we take each issue, look at what he could have done differently, look at how his peer may have interpreted it (he is living with a house full of difficult children), see what could be done to avoid the situation in the future, etc.

    We've walked through this problem solving scenario more times than I can count. He's getting better at processing it (if in the mood) but still pretty bad at implementing it in the moment. But I think it's really important to walk him thru the whole process - antsiness/provocation is really a veil over the fact that something is bugging him, he has to sit down and really identify the issue rather than avoid dealing with it by causing chaos, and then he has to walk through all the potential solutions - and I mean walk *all* the way through, i.e. where does he go to the bathroom in his cardboard box? What about when it snows?

    It is a real intellectual exercise for him and it's made more difficult when he adamantly refuses to admit he really does care about his quality of life. The problem solving is hard but the follow through is even harder. But I think/hope that if we can walk him through it enough, *maybe* someday he can start doing some of it on his own.
  4. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Adrianne, I think you're doing pretty well, too! You will find what works with you and difficult child- of course, if it's like our house, soon after you find it, it will change again, LOL!

    Anyway, we have tried "let's take a breather" which means let's just go to different rooms for a short while and take a break from each other (It isn't a time-out like a punishment), difficult child can take a short bike ride sometimes, play a video game, sit and pout in his room, lift weights (he got a beginner set for 13th b-day), listen to some music, pretty much anything that is not breaking a rule. Sometimes, I think iot comes from boredom or just coming home after having a bad day. i try to pick up on those signs earlier than I used to. After I realized how sensitive my difficult child's "sensitive stage" really is, I try (although not always successfully) to not use the phrase "What is wrong with you". I know how we mean it, but I try really hard to rephrase it in a way that helps point out to him specifically what I am noticing, hoping that will help him become more aware of what he is actually doing when he feels agitated or stressed or anxious.

    Example- why in the world are you so talkative (or fidgety, or edgy, or look so sad, or hurt, etc.) Then, can we talk about it? If I get a blunt "NO" or "I don't want to", then it is just, ok, well I just want you to remeber that I am here if you need me and decide that you want to talk- just let me know- I will listen.

    Of course, all these things are very easy for me to say right now because difficult child has been in juvy and not at home with us experiencing this first hand in about 3 1/2 weeks!
  5. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Thank you! :)

    I need to clarify that the "What is wrong with you!" statement was not a judgemental but more of a medical "What is going on with you!" (which is probably what I should have said instead.) That is why it was followed with a, "This is not like you." This is the first time I have ever used this and I made sure that difficult child knew I was referring to the behavior, not him. If he really felt it was judgemental, this would have taken a different route. (please do not try this at home - I think I was very lucky it didn't backfire on me - SLSH and KLMNO are right, I should have rephrased it.). This time was so different than when I normally try to deal with something. It felt like the right thing to say to reach him and take the conversation to where it needed to be. I won't take that chance again.

    I know I was taking chances in dealing with this the way I did. However, I felt that he was in a place that this would work (probably for this time only). I wanted him to think about if the reason really did justify the running away. That whatever was going on did not mean he needed to run away.
    I usually take the problem solving strategy SLSH recommended and have actually touched on it a bit when there is "talk" of running away but for some reason felt yesterday was different - everything felt strange and different - I wonder what is brewing?

    KLMNO - thank you for more ideas. I love the sit and pout in your room - I am learning that I have to allow my kids to own their feelings - I try too often to rescue them when they don't feel happy thus they never learn on their own to deal with or own their feelings - I am learning not to do that. I know that boredom does trigger my difficult child's anxieties but yesterday started on the way to take babysitter home and he is never ever bored with the babysitter around. The babysitter keeps him active. Maybe overly tired also triggers (he can still be tired from late nights this past weekend).

    difficult child was struggling with the issue of lying yesterday, how everyone lies but why it is not acceptable when he lies. He decided to talk to our Sr Pastor who helped him with some intense feelings/fears while at psychiatric hospital and 2 - 3 times during this past year. He has questions that he looks toward this pastor to help explain. So, today, I set up another meeting. These meetings are usually only 15 - 20 minutes. I don't know if that is what they discussed or if difficult child brought up another issue but when I asked if he said Thank you, he replied, "No, but I did say I appreciate it." He was calmer, more at peace, almost "settled".

    He felt weird (head smooshy) three times today. Something is going on??? What is brewing?
  6. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Andy, any time you wean off of a medication, you can feel weird. It can mean that your brain is adjusting to not having the medication or that you are experiencing withdrawal side effects or that you really did need the the medication. You should definitely ask the psychiatrist about it.
  7. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Thank you Small World, we have a psychiatrist and a neurologist appointment on Friday (as well as a hearing doctor appointment.) I will definitly be asking the psychiatrist and neurologist both for input. psychiatrist may have me call medication doctor. medication doctor is in same building as hearing doctor and I need to stop in with a scheduling question so will see if I can leave a message with him. I think it is after both the psychiatrist and neurologist appts so I will have their input before hand.

    I am hoping that it is just an adjustment to the withdrawal of the Clonazepam. I don't think he can go back on it so if he still needs something, I would expect an increase in the Flouxetine or something else to be started. So, I may need to up the medication doctor appointment from Sept to soon.
  8. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Why isn't psychiatrist writing scripts?
  9. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    He is difficult child's psychologist - he doesn't prescribe medications. All his dictations go to difficult child's pediatrician medical doctor who does work with these medications. We have been happy with the medications to this point. psychiatrist mentioned that if we get to the point were we need to go more into behavioral medications, we may want to ask for a referral to a psychiatrist. For now, what the medical doctor is doing is working so we will stay put.

    Have I been usind psychiatrist wrong? I thought therapist was the psychiatrist and psychiatrist the psychologist?
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    On this board:

    psychiatrist = psychiatrist (who as a medical doctor can prescribe medications)
    therapist = therapist (for example, psychologist, social worker or licensed counselor)

    That's why I was confused -- our psychiatrists write the scripts for my kids' medications.
  11. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    P.S. To complicate things, I had a history of such headaches (head feeling weird/smooshy) from about 10 yrs - 26 yrs. So the list of possibilities grow - he was starting this before the clonazepam started - it decreased with the medication - however, I feel I would need a reason to put him back on (not just it helps my head feel better - I want to know why the head is doing this to make sure we are treating the problem and not just the sympom).
  12. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I am sorry - I mixed up my abbreviations. I will start using therapist in referring to psychologist.
  13. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I think you handled it well. I try to do what Sue mentioned, but difficult child is often not in the frame of mind to really discuss these things in a rational manner when she starts this. She mostly wants to complain and be critical and spew verbal garbage.

    However, often after I put my foot down and tell her I'm not talking to her when she's being like that, she'll return a few minutes later and then we actually talk.

    I don't know that I get anywhere, but I figure with enough repetition things will start to sink in. Some things have already. Some things are starting to. Some things need more work.

    The complaining and verbal garbage is her outlet. She needs to get it out. However, she needs to find a better outlet - such as a journal, great idea, by the way - than dumping on me and expecting me to 'fix' it.

    And often, too, after the first part is over and we get to the second part (which we don't always do - like tonight for example), she seems somewhat better...just as it helps with us to be heard, validated and knowing we aren't alone. They're not any different in that regard.

    I don't know if this helps you any. Just my experience and I commiserate with you and with your difficult child. It's not fun for them either. And trying to figure out how to handle each situation with an emotionally volatile or sensitive kid is never easy. What works one time won't necessarily work the next.
  14. ML

    ML Guest

    I can relate to the rescue and I'm working on detaching instead as well. I'm asking for less accommodations unless it's related strictly to education. I recongize that he needs to practice having bad feelings and thoughts and come through them having survived a bad day, night, episode or whatever. He needs to know he doesn't need me so much.

    Some things I do use that have helped are humor and "can I make you some tea and rub your back" which is code for "I know you're overwhelmed and frustrated and lets work on calming down. It usually works.

    I guess the transitioning back into routine just comes without trying. Life's demands are steady and seldom let up so there is always that "going back to what I was doing before I forget what it was" :)


  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I think you're onto something, Adrianne.

    Go carefully, feel your way, but I would have tried to probe deeper (Basket B, though).
    "What is REALLY the problem? Can you tell me what you're thinking about right now? Let's talk about it."

    And when he said he was planning to run away, again I would probe - "Why do you feel you need to run away? WHat is it you want to run away from?" The rest of it - the practicality, etc - very well done indeed.

    In asking these extra questions you are showing him that you do care, that you know it's not easy for him and also that you want to really understand him so you can help him find the answers he needs.

    As he learns to answer your questions, he also learns to think more deeply about what is bothering him and to ask himself those questions later on.

    About sending kids to their room - we discovered early on, that when we used it as time out, the kids soon saw it as a refuge and would put themselves in their room without being told, if they were unhappy, upset or having an argument with someone. "Go to your room" evolves into "I will go to my room because I need to be alone for a while."

    This is especially likely to happen if being sent to the room is not always used as punishment only, but also encouraged as a refuge. For example, "I'm sorry you bumped your head while playing Batman from the garden shed roof. How about you go to your room and lie down quietly for a while and see if your head feels better?"

    Adrianne, your son sounds like he not only lacks social skills but is aware of this lack in himself and is working to rectify it. He also sounds like he is a basically honest and good kid. His inability to understand (or accept) that people lie all the time, but HE is not permitted to - a classic Aspie reaction. Oh boy, so very classic! To be more accurate, a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) reaction.

    Think about it from his point of view. Life really isn't fair. He's taught that a balance of exercise and good nutrition means you will grow up to be strong, healthy and the correct weight. They really pound that into kids early in, at school. At least, they do here. I suspect they do in the US as well.

    Then you have a visitor, a lady from church who, to be polite, is overweight and not healthy. You invite her in for a cup of coffee and morning tea. Politeness and friendship has you opening a packet of biscuits and offering her one. Over the next half hour you and the lady talk and as she reaches for a third biscuit, difficult child comes in and says to her, "You shouldn't eat more than two biscuits, because that is being greedy."

    difficult child is being honest; he is also reciting the social rules he has been taught. From HIS point of view, he has not only done nothing wrong, he has been very good as well as helpfully pointing out something that perhaps the lady from church just didn't know (clearly didn't know, since she is overweight and unfit. It must be because she doesn't know she should be exercising and eating a healthy diet).
    You, of course, are mortified. You send difficult child to his room for insolence and at the same time you tell your friend, "Don't worry, help yourself. You're not overweight anyway. You look great."
    On his way to his room difficult child hears you saying this to the lady and it really confuses him because he can see the evidence with his own eyes. You lied. This undermined the good things he was trying to do, to help the lady.

    Some difficult children would come storming out of their rooms accusing you of deceit and double standards. If your difficult child is slightly more socially aware than this, maybe he decides to wait until the friend has gone before asking you why you lied.

    We often are not aware of our lies. We drag ourselves out of bed, fighting off the latest cold, because we have a job to get to and kids to take to school. difficult child sees we're not feeling well but otherwise does not react. We're late out the door heading for school, got to drop the kid off fast and keep moving, too much to do today. The teacher calls out, "How are you?" and on the fly past, we respond with, "Fine, thanks!"
    To difficult child, this is a lie.

    The social side of all this, the reasons we do this, are often just too far beyond our kids' ability to understand. In time and with support they will get it, but in the meantime the apparent double standards can really upset them. It really isn't fair, and they get confused. When is it OK to lie? WHat sort of lie? When is is OK to tell the whole truth?
    The first lesson for a difficult child is NOT how to lie, but how to know when to shut up. A Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid does not automatically have empathy. They would like to, but it's not something they understand easily.

    At difficult child 3's drama class (for kids with learning problems) the kids go in to class and we parents sit in the next room, drinking coffee and chatting. One classmate of difficult child 3's has a sister who is functionally autistic, but who doesn't go to drama because she is too unpredictable. She is about 15. We adults were going through a bag of cast-off clothes and I was trying on (over my jeans) various skirts. I am still losing weight and I'm beginning to look "almost normal". Some of the other women were telling me how much weight I've lost and I said, "I don't look like I still weigh over 80 Kg, do I?"
    The other women responded (as you would in that situation) and clearly wanting to belong, this autistic girl piped up and said, "No, you don't look very fat at all."

    I know the girl, I know she was trying to be polite in her own ham-fisted way and thanked her. Her mother corrected her and said, "You could have phrased that differently, darling. Maybe you could have said,..." and explained a bit more.
    The girl turned to me and said, "I'm sorry I said you were fat."

    Poor kid! The more she tried to fix it, the worse it sounded! I just laughed and said it was perfectly OK, I was the first one who had mentioned my obesity by naming my weight, so it was perfectly OK for her to have responded as she did. And she hadn't called me fat, anyway. We were all girls together, talking girl talk, and under these circumstances especially when trying on clothes, talking about weight is perfectly OK. I made it clear that she hadn't offended me at all.

    Our kids will say the wrong thing but in general are not intending to be mean or cruel. It doesn't always sound that way, though. It often sounds like a kid being cheeky, or deliberately confrontational. With this girl, she is herself overweight (connected to her brain damage) and so would know more than most how much it hurts her feelings if someone calls her names and teases her about her weight. But she has also been taught that it's not polite for ANYONE to talk about someone else's weight in public. We had broken the rules and were talking about it, which confused her. By making it clear to her than we were all very good friends and this meant we could be a bit more informal than usual, I think I avoided a bit of the confusion. I don't know. It's not easy for the poor mother - one child very much Asperger's, then her younger, easy child daughter gets severely injured and in a coma for months, waking up brain injured and functionally autistic. Life just isn't fair sometimes. But as her mother says, they had been told she would never wake up. Then they were told she would never talk, never walk, never feed herself. So she says ANYTHING is a bonus, and is grateful for what she has.

    If the girl had been more unsettled (she probably wouldn't have said anything then anyway) then I would have put my responses to her in Basket B. But because she seemed calm and receptive, I responded in more detail and her mother was happy for me to do this (I was watching her body language).

    We've been talking a lot on other threads about being good parents/bad parents etc. And this makes me realise - not only do we have to be good parents, we have to go above and beyond the level of expertise tat lets parents of PCs just slide through. The mothers of difficult child 3's classmates - they are amazing. They come form all socioeconomic backgrounds. Some work full-time, some are single parents, some stay at home and invest everything in their kids. But I watch their interactions, the careful way they manage tier kids and even watch out for warning signs in each other's kids ("Hey, Freda, your Ben's beginning to pace the floor with his head down; I think you might need to get him out of here and somewhere quiet fairly soon, he's trying to hold it together and not coping."). Sometimes it's nothing more than a nudge and a head toss to indicate the concern discreetly. And they all know that when someone says in difficult child 3's hearing that it's time to go, he grabs the car keys from me and takes himself to the car, strapping himself into his seat, putting my keys on my seat and waiting.

    We are not only good parents - we are THE BEST parents because our kids teach us to be.

  16. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Thank you!

    Wyntersgrace - Does it seem like your difficult child sometimes just does not want to come out of the episode? I get that feeling with my difficult child - it is like he is saying, "Leave me alone - let me nag at you - let me verbally attack you - I know what you are trying to do - I know you are trying to get me to stop - I don't want to stop so don't ask me to talk about anything - just sit there and take it." Someone once told me how his chld storms off to her room when upset - my answer? "You don't know how lucky you are. When they refuse to leave you at this time, things can and do get ugly." And yes, your input does help - thank you! :)

    Michele - I like the idea of a "code". I will have to come up with one. Thank you! :)

    Marguerite - You always have a deeper insight and come up with good examples to explain. I believe you are correct, I do need to start taking difficult child to a deeper level in his search of learning who he is and how he needs to handle his life medically, physically, and emotionally. Thank you! :)