What do you do when the older one is emotionally younger than the younger one?

(27 Posts)
Bananaketchup Fri 13-Dec-13 15:17:38

DD is 5, and has been doing gradual taster sessions at school, starting off with me with her, then me in the corridor outside, now she spends a couple of hours there by herself a couple of times a week. School have been lovely, and the other children are lovely to her. But as she is trying to hold it together at school, her behaviour at home has got a lot harder.

DD is stuck at toddler age emotionally a lot of the time anyway (but with the inventive brain of a bright 5 year old, great!), but with the stress from this she is tantrumming long and often, screaming, crying, whining, throwing things, slamming doors etc. I know why it's happening, but I can't see how to deal with it and also keep DSs needs in mind.

He is just turned 2, and for instance yesterday while DD was having a long screaming and throwing things session cos I asked her to put her bike away, he put away all the rest of the toys without being asked and without comment, then kept to himself while DD whined and screamed. I don't want him to lose out on my attention because of DDs behaviour. I also don't want him to see behaving this way as the way to get attention, or to learn that he has to give in when people demand what he's got. And while I'm conscious of this happening, I am getting resentful of the effect of DDs behaviour on DS, because he always has to wait, he always gets second choice, he always gives in when she tantrums for something he's got, and it makes it hard for me to deal with DD compassionately when I start getting resentful that it's not fair to DS.

Is any of this making sense to anyone, and anyone got any strategies I can try? Because shouting 'He's the 2 year old, you're the 5 year old!!' (which I admit I have a few times) is not helping any of us, but I haven't got a lot else. SW is utterly clueless and is on leave now til 2nd week of January anyway, so no joy there. Suggestions please!

Good news Bananaketchup. All the best.

Bananaketchup Wed 08-Jan-14 20:22:06

Update - had the LAC review, I was honest about how hard DDs behaviour can be to deal with, and said I don't feel I can make a clean decision about whether we should delay the lifestory work or not because I'm not sure if I'm trying to meet my or DDs needs first in that. We have agreed the therapist contracted to do the lifestory work will make an assessment initially and then give her opinion on whether to start it now or delay. I really like the reviewing officer, she seems sensible and quite clued up. Useless SW rang and said she was lost and would be late (despite having been here several times before) and the reviewing officer rolled her eyes and tutted 'useless!' which I enjoyed!

I also rang the other local adopter over xmas and we chatted for over an hour and plan to meet soon once the school routine is established, so that's positive. Only 2 days into term but DD has stayed all day both days, which she's never done before and which I didn't expect her to manage, and got ready in the morning with a lot less tantrumming and controlling behaviour than we had before xmas so that's really positive.

namechangesforthehardstuff Tue 24-Dec-13 22:39:31

You too banana. Come back soon and update smile

Bananaketchup Tue 24-Dec-13 19:49:46

I know, I need to phone the number (not tonight though!). My SW phoned today - I've had a pretty low opinion of her in the past, but LAC SW makes her look like SW Of The Year so I said to her it had been tough and a few things, as much as I was able with little ears tuned, and she said to use the LAC review to be very honest and to get in touch over xmas if I need to, so I felt better about that. As for the lifestory work I don't feel confident to make the decision - I am scared I'll put it off really because I don't want to deal with the fall out now, rather than because it's not the right time for DD. I don't feel like I can make a 'clean' decision I suppose, and I want to put her needs first.

Thank you for your support, it is welcome! have a lovely christmas

Bananaketchup I really hope you will find some support and help.

I have held back from replying to this as I am not yet an adopter and I would not want to offend you or offer crap advice!

However, as the risk of being totally crap, can I just say (and I know it is not the same, and I know my birth daughter is not adopted) however, she has done some things in the past that have seemed pretty selfish, things in the past where she was looking out for herself and not thinking of others! I could go into details! PM me if you want me to.

These things that to me appeared like she did not care made me feel very bad. To some extent I think all kids do this type of thing, or at least lots of them. And they have no real reason to feel the porridge of emotions your little one is feeling. So please do not blame her or yourself, you are both fighting circumstances from outside of your relationship, problems put into her life before you met her.

I really wish you all the best, hang on in there. And if this new person is having a great time she may have some good tips. And if she is not you can be a shoulder for each other. But either way she could be a good support so do call her please.

namechangesforthehardstuff Mon 23-Dec-13 22:18:55

Yes use the phone number smile It'll almost certainly be swings and roundabouts in the longer term even if it's all going really well for them right now. And parenting ALWAYS looks easier/better in front of others remember 'cos dcs save their finest moments for primary carers bless 'em smile

You're her mum, how able do you feel to make that decision re lifestory stuff? It seems to be one of the things worrying you...

Bananaketchup Mon 23-Dec-13 20:05:04

I do want to offload face to face I think - I've got lovely supportive friends who are adopters, but I'm conscious they've got their own crap going on too so don't want to keep offloading to them all the time. I have also got a phone number for a local adopter who has had her children home the same time as me (provided by my brilliant health visitor, not USW), I probably need to use it! I think I'm nervous of hearing it's all going much better for them and reinforcing my feelings of being a bit crap.

I do know DD isn't amoral or beyond help or any of those things, I just get into a bit of negative thinking. SWs are all mad keen for the lifestory work to happen asap, the LAC review chair (reviewing officer?) thinks it'll help her settle so they all hopped to it. In fact they binned off the previous lifestory worker because her opinion was it should wait - not sorry about that as she was hopeless and DD ran rings round her. I don't know what I think about it now, I'm pretty sure DDs behaviour will get more challenging as it brings stuff up so I am not looking forward to it for that reason, but whether it's the best thing for her to do it now or later I don't really know.

I do appreciate the support I get here too btw, thank you!

namechangesforthehardstuff Sun 22-Dec-13 23:37:25

Sounds like you need someone to help you with your thoughts more than anything. Is paying for something while USW gets her shit together an option? Or having a RL conversation with some other adoptive parents? Or do you have a friend who's a great listener?

She's just settling.You know she's not amoral - she's just having a really difficult time. Why does lifestory work have to start so soon? Could you postpone it a bit?

Bananaketchup Sat 21-Dec-13 20:36:27

Hi namechanges, I think I want to ask useless SW for counselling or debriefing for me, I want to talk it through (not with useless SW obviously) but I want someone who knows something about adoption (which useless SW doesn't). I work in the NHS, and they won't pay for my supervision while I'm off so it's stopped. Unfortunately useless SW is now on leave til the second week in January. I think it's knowing nothing will happen now til well after xmas, plus feeling like the stuff going on (school, lifestory work starting in the new year) is going to make her behaviour harder which is scaring me and I get into a mode of 'this is never going to get any better, she is amoral and can't be helped, I am going to lose the plot and damage her more than has already happened' sad

namechangesforthehardstuff Fri 20-Dec-13 23:24:45

Hi banana smile

Can you talk to her outside the moment? Can you have a look back at PACE stuff and find anything there that would work? It's really hard not to attribute bad motives to stuff like this - even when it's only low level behaviour so no wonder you're feeling that she's selfish and hurting him because she can only see herself.

I know you said you worked in a therapeutic setting - is that right? Can you access any kind of supervision to talk this through?

Bananaketchup Fri 20-Dec-13 21:07:35

Yesterday DD coped pretty well with her first time playing at a classmate's house (with me and DS there too). Unfortunately later that evening she deliberately injured DS (not badly I hasten to add he is fine) while he was not even slightly doing anything to annoy her and while she was apparently calm, not lashing out or anything in anger.

She then insisted first she hadn't done it hard, then she hadn't done it at all (I was 3 inches away at the time so there is no question of that). I am struggling to see how to deal with her if she is going to do things like that, all she seemed to care about was that it was not fair to her, because I shouted at her. I'm struggling with what I am trying not to see as her lack of conscience, and a really complete selfishness - selfishness is not the right word but I can't find how else to describe it, it feels like such a complete belief that she is the only person who matters or maybe even exists. I'm not explaining properly I know, I can't think it out properly.

Bananaketchup Mon 16-Dec-13 19:45:26

Thanks guys, quick reply as we've had a family bereavement so stuff going on here - expected but still y'know. I am reading and thinking about everything you guys reply, thank you.

PS namechanges love the 'my aunt's a physiotherapist', that clearly trumps being a Dr! My admin once heard our cleaner at work explaining to someone on her mobile that she knew her boyfriend had flu because 'I should know, I work in a hospital' grin

Moomoomie Mon 16-Dec-13 14:32:44

Banana.... I think you've hit the nail on the head, when you say. " I struggle to switch as quick as she does"
It is difficult to meet their needs when they change so frequently. You will find a lot of dd wanting what ds has got, just because he has it. I still get this with dd2 who is 13 years old and dd3 who is 6.
They are both very delayed emotionally, the professionals say about half their actual age. I have learnt, and it has taken a long time, to remember that they have this delay, and to treat them accordingly.
It is still very early days for you, you are all still learning about each other. It does take a lot of patience and time,
You are doing so well though.
From another dabbler, who is making it up as she goes along!

namechangesforthehardstuff Sun 15-Dec-13 23:00:53

And jeez aren't we all bloody dabbling here? !

namechangesforthehardstuff Sun 15-Dec-13 22:58:33

I liked your 'dabbler' thing smile

My friend's family are all doctors and once she and her dh stopped to check on someone who had collapsed on the High Street. As they were quietly checking his breathing etc a man pushed through the crowd shouting 'Let me through; my aunt's a physiotherapist'... So that's now the phrase they use for dabblers smile

How's things this weekend? Can Dd do turn taking if she can't do sharing?

Ghostsdonttalk Sun 15-Dec-13 22:55:24

Don't worry Bannana not offended at all. The reason I posted orginally was that Ds who is 5 has speech and language difficulties and while he can now hold it together for a whole school day, it is much harder for him than for the other kids and he trantrums massively somedays before I get him out the gate. So your Dd sounded similar albeit with different issues. After school he has veg out time (not time out or in) with as little stimulation as possible.

School dinner never fills him so I do wonder if that could be a point too.

Dd is 9 she loves to wind up Ds if you find a solution to that one let me know!! Lol.

When Ds was younger we had to do "time in" too as he couldn't understand and I found it really difficult because time out gives me time to calm down and decide how I am going to deal with it. Time in is a lot harder.

Best of luck, it will all come together. Sometimes when I look back I can see time and patience overcomes most things in the end.

Bananaketchup Sun 15-Dec-13 20:46:51

Thanks guys.

Italian you're right. DS isn't damaged in the same way as DD because he hasn't had the same experiences (removed at 8 months, DD was 3 1/2), which is why he can manage to wait sometimes, or amuse himself for 5 minutes, things DD can't. It's me having an issue with it, much more than him, because to him things being like this is normal service. It is my issue. I will think about some things they can both be first at. If DS chooses something, a toy or whatever (today, the laundry basket!) DD immediately wants it, even though she's had no interest in it before he picks it up. So it's hard to do.

Swanhilda you're right, emotionally DD is a toddler a lot of the time. I am finding it hard to hold onto that, because when she is her age she can have a conversation or understand a situation fine and it's all fine and then bang she's gone from 5 years to 18months in the time it takes for DS to decide to sit in the laundry basket. I struggle to switch as quick as she does, she is a 5 year old and doesn't want to be treated younger one second, then goes off like a rocket the next. Sigh.

Namechanges DD is currently coming home after school dinner, so I don't think it's hunger, though it could be I guess. I am definitely not at my best when hungry so maybe I need to shove something in her as soon as we walk out of school to see if it is that.

Ghosts please don't be offended by the dabbler comment. I am a therapist (ha great advert for my own service ATM!) and come across a lot of people in helping professions who think that because they are a SW or nurse or whatever they can do therapy cos they've read about techniques. It's a bugbear of mine at work but I wasn't meaning to offend anyone here - lots of people here know an awful lot more and have helped me far far more than any professionals! DD can't cope with being on her own, so won't play in her room and have quiet time. When I leave her when she's tantrumming she just screams for me and throws things, it makes her more stressed to be left alone. Adopters are supposed to do 'time in' not time out but with 2 kids and one parent I'm buggered how I'm supposed to do it!

Ghostsdonttalk Sun 15-Dec-13 00:20:23

I am probably a dabbler too but heres my two cents worth. I have no adoption experience but have 4 Dc all very different personsality.

I suspect Dd enjoys school but finds it quite difficult and draining emotionally. I would suggest after school you give her food and then downtime so Dvd or playing with dolls etc in her room on her own.

Also I think you could try saying okay you are upset I will leave you to calm down and will be back in 2-3 mins ( you can use a sand timer for this, put it out of reach). Sometimes tantrums are much shorter without an audience.

Can you use the time she is at school to get quality time with Ds?

There are lots of positives here, you sound like you are doing a good job.

namechangesforthehardstuff Sat 14-Dec-13 23:42:25

My dd's post-school meltdown is hungryness. One sniff of a corn on the cob and normal service resumes. Just a possibility...

Glad to hear there might be an actual professional coming into this for you. Don't beat yourself up smile

Swanhilda Sat 14-Dec-13 23:20:09

The phrase "asked her to put her bike away" made me think hmm. I wonder whether the best thing to do is just treat her as if she IS a toddler for a bit, lay off all demands and just make everything as routiney and safe as possible. So she knows exactly what to expect for every moment of the day after school and very few expectations (the sort of expectations of normal five year old I mean) are made of her. After all, one of the things about school is that you have to be very good, and very compliant - also there are lots of new things every day, and she may have used up her quota of that by the time she gets home.

I suppose it is like if you, an adult go out to a important quite nerve racking party in the evening, have a great time, feeling a bit wired up and excited but basically knackered by giving your all, come home and someone suddenly asks you to do the washing up and tidy the living room. All perfectly normal, but you just don't FEEL that is what you want to do after the party. You need a sort of total chill out zone time. I think the best thing to do is just imagine you are her, and imagine what her day feels like, from a sensory point of view - sights sounds conversations.

Also your ds is going to get a good deal of you when she is at school so he isn't actually shortchanged in the long run.

I had an after school tantrummer!!! although no experience of adoption.

DVD not VD!!!!

Bananchip you poor soul it sounds very hard. My dd has soem spectacular tantrums for quite a while and it was very frustrating. I expect you have no time at all to read but if you get a minute please try and read 'how to talk so children will listen and listen so children will talk', it is really really good. It is easy to read and really really helpful.

I am not yet an adopter so feel free to ignore me, I may even fit into your dabbler category!

I would try as much as possible to see that your son does not actually need you as much as your daughter (IMHO) he is not as damaged by life so far and apart from the obviousl physical and emotional needs all children have, and being kept safe, he is not having to process everything in the same way as your dd. So please try not to feel too guilty for lavisheng the attention on your daughter.

When you say 'he always gets second choice' can you create a few situations where they can both have first choice? Some choice of bisucits or cakes where you have enough for them to have their first choice? Go shopping and let them pick something they both like for Christmas like a pair of gloves or top or whatever? If you have a lap top and a VD and head phones you could get them both to choose their favourite DVD and put them on at same time! Just a few situations where they can both feel like they are winners?

Would DD be able to do something with you that would be nice for DS? I mean plan a little tea for him, with you and DD making it together whatever he wouold like, ham sandwich, iced cup cake, a pot of jelly and fruit etc. Maybe make some fun party hats etc as a pre-Christmas treat and say to DD that while she is watching her favourite TV programme or whatever the next day you ahd DS will do the same for her? Give DD the choice to go first with the making tea or to have tea made for her first. Whichever she choose to do first does not matter because either way each is a treat, a special tea or time with mum. Both are winners!
I know in the long run your DD will need to learn to wait and to allow for her brother to have first go but for the moment I think (IMHO) her attaching to you is of primary importance.

But feel free to ignore me, I only have one child so far and don't know how juggling is!

Bananaketchup Sat 14-Dec-13 21:38:15

MyFeetAReCold although I wouldn't wish it on you, it is reassuring that someone else is in the same boat! DS isn't napping in the day anymore, so DD doesn't have that time for the activities we even used to call ' things we do when DS is in bed' (principally craft stuff he would try to eat!) anymore. Although TBH I don't think DD is able to hold the idea of that later gratification to alter her behaviour in the moment anyway, she too toddlerish when she's in that zone.

Namechanges we are awaiting lifestory work, this time with an actual therapist (I looked her up) rather than the last one who I very strongly suspect was an independent social worker who thinks she can do therapy, ie what in my work life I disparagingly call a dabbler. I am hoping she will be able to fit a first visit in this week. I am also toying with the idea of asking for a course of counselling for me alongside - I think I need someone to talk to as well as my support network. I think that would help me deal with the resentment because you are right, the situation bringing the resentment isn't going to change soon. DS is attaching to me, actually I feel like they both are in their own ways, so it's not that I think DDs behaviour is preventing that, more that I feel he's getting a crap deal.

Moomoomie DD seems to genuinely like school, as far as I can work out. She has been desperate all weekend to write out cards to all of her class, plays with them when we see them in the park, wanted to see their nativity, tells me fun stuff she's done in the day etc. The other children are so sweet to her, and I'm really happy that she now actually seems to be playing and interacting with the children, as in the first few visits when I was there I only saw her interacting with the teacher and TA and resisting the children's attempts to engage her. I just wish she could feel safe enough there to be a bit more her total self IYKWIM, because at the moment it feels like she is holding her toddlerishness in at school and it's bursting out at home. Well not even at home, sometimes we're still in sight of school when she starts tantrumming. In a way I feel like the fact she is being this way with me (and also now a bit with the grandparents, which took longer) shows a bit of trust. So it's good in theory, but hard to live with in reality. I long for her to have enough trust in school to do some of it there too, and not bottle it up!

Today while DD was bouncing her toys off her bedroom wall in a massive tantrum and I was doing excellent parenting (I threw a plastic duck back and it hit her in the face, I'm talking about a bit of plastic less than an inch in size which bounced on her cheek, but still very much not proud of myself), DS started really crying downstairs and I ran down and he has a big bump and scratch on his temple. I think he was climbing on the arm of the sofa and fell off and bumped it on the doorhandle. I yelled at DD 'see now he's hurt himself because I'm up here dealing with you being a baby, hope you're happy', more brilliant parenting. So now I'm feeling even worse about it all, I feel like I'm not meeting either of their needs.

Moomoomie Sat 14-Dec-13 19:50:13

Your post has just brought back so many memories of when dd1 and dd2 came home, dd1 was 2 years and dd2 was six months, so younger than your two, which was easier in as much as dd2 was just sat on my hip and carried around whilst I sorted out dd1. She was and still is very demanding of attention, dd2 is much more placid and learnt to play well on her own, always gets second choice etc due a lot from the fact her sister got all the attention.
Do you think your dd is actually ready for school? I remember your dilemma about starting school and which one is best.
Personally I think she needs to be a lot more secure at home with you, if she does not want to be at school, she will not learn.

namechangesforthehardstuff Sat 14-Dec-13 18:20:43

Hi Banana, DD is 5ish iirc?

A few questions: Is DD able to talk about this in calmer moments? Do you have any psychotherapy support? This must be very common with sibling placements - I would have thought almost universal - and I think my LA have a great psychotherapist who could talk though this kind of thing - maybe even just suggesting some strategies on the phone?

I suppose the other thing is what is your short term aim? The behaviour is probably not going to be immediately reversable. So do you think it's most important that you have strategies to deal with your own resentment and frustration (which are completely understandable) or to help DS to develop/attach in these trying circumstances, or something else?

I also wonder if, given that there's relatively little traffic here, it might be worth asking for strategies on the wider site which you can then look at through the prism of adoption/attachement?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now