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4 year old has lost confidence - physical skills

(12 Posts)
AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 14:33:27

My (just) 4 year old DS has dramatically lost confidence in his physical abilities over the last few months.

He has always been a very physically able boy, and we're a really active, outdoorsy family, but, for example:

He now screams and sobs when we attempt to take him swimming. If I manage to get him into the pool he clings onto me for dear life while howling. Inevitable we end up getting out after a very short while because it's unfair on other pool users. To put this in context he has been able to swim unaided for over a year (he could easily swim a width before his third birthday), mainly because we used to live abroad and as a toddler he swam every day in our pool at home. He used to spend his days jumping into swimming pools and diving to pick up toys from the bottom. He swims far less frequently in the UK, but still at least once a fortnight.

He could just about ride a pedal bike (he was fine in a straight line, still a big wobbly on corners). He now absolutely refuses to try his pedal bike and insists on using his far too small balance bike.

He now refuses to ride his quiet, elderly pony (I know, first world problem).

He can't share a trampoline or soft play with other children without it turning into a whinge fest - he will get scared that other children are bouncing too high, that the slides are scary etc.

These are just a few examples. It's such a big, big change in him. He was always my fearless, confident one. Generally he is quite whiny lately (even unrelated to physical things), whereas he had always been a very cheerful little boy.

I know that none of these sound like major problems, but they are really impacting on what I can do with my other children (he has an older and a younger sibling), and I'm living in fear of the long summer holidays. Things like swimming and soft play are just out as he is so labour intensive. We used to go on lovely rides where he and my 6 year old would take it in turns to ride and walk, but that can't happen now as he won't ride and won't really walk either - he'll whine that it's too far, he's tired, and then refuse to move. As I have to have the baby in a sling or buggy I can't carry him (and anyway he is too big to carry for long!).

Ideas? Suggestions? Pop child psychology? I do wonder if this is all somehow linked to the arrival of a new sibling late last year. I'd really like to help him get his confidence back though, so that we can get on with life as we know it!

downgraded Wed 08-Jul-15 14:37:39

Oh that sounds stressful and I'm a bit stumped too tbh.

Have you thought about enrolling him into a gym or dance class? Something to work on his coordination and motor skills?

Do you think it's the physical side which is the problem or is that simply an easy way for him to manifest a more internal general loss of confidence?

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 08-Jul-15 14:39:56

Bit random, but what about getting his ears checked? Ear infections make swimming horrible and can also mess with balance.

AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 15:03:51

Thanks - I think it is probaby a manifestation of a more general lack of confidence. He has also been clingy at nursery drop offs etc recently, which is completely new. He is far worse when I'm around - the whining and activity refusal really seems to step up a gear (nursery - he goes for his free hours every day - haven't reported any issues once I'm gone).

I'm sure he got a shock when a new baby turned up - I've been a SAHM since we moved abroad when he was little, and we lived somewhere where domestic help was cheap and plentiful, so I was fortunate to have a lot of time for him (and on the occasions where I had something to do, there was always someone else to play with him). He coped well with the move back here and change in gear (no domestic help other than a cleaner once a week, so suddenly shopping / cooking / housework all had to be fitted into his day). But adding a new baby I to the mix (although he adores her) has probably been the tipping point for him.

AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 15:06:15

Actually Twelve he is really prone to ear infections - he's had 2 courses of antibiotics for them this year. You might be on to something. I wonder if that either started to make him feel (physically) insecure, or if there is something residual left from an ear infection affecting him.

CityDweller Wed 08-Jul-15 15:11:21

How old is the baby? Did his change in behaviour coincide with his/her arrival?
If so, surely must be that? It's not unusual for older siblings to become insecure and act like a baby when new baby arrives.

Have you tried spending more 1 on 1 time with him, being super reassuring, etc? DD became v clingy to me when my bump became visible (I'm 25 wks pregnant) and paying her more attention and being even more affectionate with her than usual seems to have helped her settle down dreading how she'll react to actual arrival of her sibling though

AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 15:19:50

Baby DD is 8 months. He initially seemed fine when she waa born (he's got a sibling anyway who is 2 years older, so although I wouldn't want to minimise the impact for him, it probably wasn't so much of a shock as his arrival was for 2 year old DC1!).

This all started when the baby was about 4/5 months. Possibly when he realised that she was here for good, and the novelty wore off!! She's an easy baby though, so not taking up all of my time (and to be honest, she is the one really being ignored, while I deal with DC2).

I do think that the baby has a part to play in all of this though, but I'm just lot sure how to deal with it, and the particular way in which his issues are manifesting. He gets as much attention and reassurance as possible (in all honesty not much 1-1 time though, as I've 2/3 children at home at all times, and DH works very long hours).

CityDweller Wed 08-Jul-15 15:59:51

Hmmm. Have you tried asking him what he would like to do, when you're all doing stuff together? E.g. if he doesn't want to swim/ ride/ etc, then perhaps he wants to do something else? Maybe he's just feeling overwhelmed by everything at the moment and wants quiet time with you all/ at home over everything else [just a wild guess here]

AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 21:35:33

I think he'd be happy to stay to home all day. He is very content playing with Duplo / Playmobil / in the garden etc. But for everyone's sanity I need to get out for at least an hour or two most days. I wonder if we try to have a really quiet week at the start of the holidays whether that would help him - a run of no demands on his confidence and as much attention as I can manage? the theory sounds good, the reality may be constant bickering about who stole who's bit of Lego...

paxtecum Wed 08-Jul-15 21:39:58

A vitamin supplement might help.
Presumably you lived in a country with warm, sunny weather.

AliAliAlium Wed 08-Jul-15 21:59:05

Yes, very hot, very sunny. Will google vitamin A (my nutritional knowledge is woefully inadequate).

CityDweller Wed 08-Jul-15 22:12:04

I guess you have to decide which is worse, staying in and the other kids getting bored/ bickering or going out and DS being difficult/ clingy/ demanding to be carried.

Or maybe he'll start improving by then anyway? DD's pregnancy-related clinginess seemed to disappear as fast as it came and for the past few days she's been all about DH.

Oh, one other though - have you been talking about anything to or around DS that might have unsettled him? DH and I are trying to decide whether to move and a few weeks ago DD had a really tearful morning at the childminders - apparently she cried half the mornign and wanted me (very unlike her). Anyway, after scratching our heads, DH and I remembered that that morning we'd both been thinking about a house we'd seen and had asked DD 'would you like to move to a house with a big garden?' She very quietly said 'yes' and the conversation moved on. We realised later that perhaps she'd thought we meant she was going to move to the new house on her own, without us. Poor thing. Anyway, point is, it reminded me that DD, even though she's only 2, pretty much understands everything we say and to be more careful around her in the future.

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