This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
8 year old is anxious and angry, does he need to be diagnosed? Help!(11 Posts)
Hello, could really do with some help here. I’m worried my eight year old’s behaviour might be outside ‘normal’ and that he needs professional help. Any suggestions about if it’s normal / what it could be the matter / where to get help would be very welcome. His behaviour is affecting myself and my partner and his siblings, it doesn’t seem fair on any of us.
So here’s a list of what I’m concerned about:
- he complains ALL THE TIME about everything, always sees the problem, says he can’t do things, puts down his little sister
- he catastrophises EVERYTHING, it’s always the worst case scenario that he thinks will happen, also seems to want to feel sorry for himself and not solve problems
- he refuses to go anywhere without an adult he’s familiar with (so no after school groups etc)
- scared of doctors, dentists, tutors (he needs help at school), scared of going upstairs
- he has difficulty getting to sleep, panics about not being able to, lots of ‘I’ll never get to sleep’ etc
- he has shouty, crying tantrums with throwing and stamping that last from anything to a few minutes to a whole day on and off
- he has whole days of being sad, unable to get out of a bad mood. He gets stuck in a certain mode and can’t seem to help himself- to stop moaning
- he doesn’t seem able to please people and feels sorry for himself: ‘no one likes me’ etc. After he’s been badly behaved he will ask for hugs or say the right things but it sounds fake and if he doesn’t get his way it’s instantly back to crying and shouting
- there’s more... but that’s enough, it’s too depressing to go on and I feel mean saying bad things about my son
Some things that might be relevant:
- he’s in the process of getting an official dyslexia diagnosis, his reading and writing is about two years behind. I wonder if there’s not a bigger problem- a more general developmental delay
- he’s the eldest of four, youngest is only 2 months old
- he has no close friends at school but behaves okay
- our family life is very calm and stable now but he did witness me being sad and angry when my first marriage ended 4 years ago but nothing TERRIBLE
- when out an about, say if you met him at the park or saw him at a restaurant you wouldn’t think he was unusual. He manages to save most of his tantrums for home.
- pysically he’s tall, easily the size of a 10 year old, is skinny, eats lots so he must be growing loads
He has lots of lovely qualities, we’ve read lots of parenting books to try and help him but it’s just TOO MUCH now. I don’t want his siblings to grow up with a grumpy big brother. He also takes up loads of our attention which isn’t fair on his siblings. I feel quite sad about the thought of him growing into a pessimistic and anxious adult, he has lots lovely traits which are being overshadowed by the more negative ones. What can I do? Is this a medical problem, something diagnosable? Is it just his personality? Is this what an 8 year old is?! We try to be kind but firm: give warnings, send him to his room, lots of positive reinforcement but it doesn’t work. Any advice? Please!
Your DS does sound anxious and negative. He's had a lot going on in his life. Dyslexia which means he is behind at school, the divorce, even if it wasn't terrible he would have picked up your sadness and anger, your new partner and three younger siblings. So now he might be stuck feeling a bit insecure. Does he still have a relationship with his birth father, and could he be blaming himself for the breakup? Children often have this kind of irrational worry. And anxiety can led to temper in itself.
You might need something beyond "positive reinforcement". Positive reinforcement is about recognising and rewarding the behaviour that adults want. Your DS may also need techniques to reassure him that he is good enough to win your attention and approval just as he is, even when his behaviour is not especially "good". I found Sue Jenner's Parent-Child Game very helpful for how to do this kind of neutral shared attention in an effective way, using child-led play and descriptive commenting and attends - it was hard work but even a little went a long way, even 10-minute session every few days made a difference to my DS. You say he doesn't accept solutions but that might be because the real problem might not be whatever he is yelling about right now, but longer term anxiety and insecurity. (My DS was the opposite - he just wanted a solution and he wanted it right now! He would perk up as soon as I fixed it for him.)
Another book that might come in handy is the Uwritten Rules of Friendship it's mainly a social skills book so it might help him make friends and get on better with his sister; and it has a section specifically on helping children who are very negative in outlook.
Unfortunately, if he's always been quite a needy child that wont change even though you have other demands on your time and attention. You will have to find ways to meet his needs which wont be easy. So I think some professional advice would be useful so that you are spending your limited time well, especially when to keep him in his comfort zone and when to push the boundaries. And also there's never any harm in getting more evaluations done, if he might have problems beyond his dyslexia.
Thanks for the advice Kleinzeit. I’ll definitely look into those books, they might help provide alternative forms of communicating love (alternatives to him feeling sorry for himself because he’s misbehaved and me reassuring him).
I don’t know where to begin with professional help- from what kind of professional? Who would assess him? For what?
In some ways he clearly can control his behaviour (he’s better behaved in public) but in other ways he can’t (he’s making himself, and his family, miserable). I wish someone could just tell me what to do: tell him off, treating it like an illness, talk about it, ignore his negativity.... sheesh... I was hoping parenting got easier as the kids grew up.
There are a couple of different routes to getting help. You could go to the GP and ask for a referral to NHS children's mental health services - usually CAMHS for short. (You don't need to take DS along to the GP) At CAMHS he might see a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist to assess for depression and anxiety. He might get some counselling or therapy or medication. Or he might see a developmental pediatrition at CAMHS first, especially if there's a possibility of a developmental delay. There are usually quite long waiting lists for CAMHS referrals though. The GP may also be able to point you at private alternatives.
Also the school or educational psychologist might also be able to help, especially since they know he has dyslexia. Can you talk to the SENCO about him? They might be able to offer him difernt kinds of support in school that makes him feel happier and help him act out less at home.
The GP may suggest that you go to a parenting group. If s/he does then give it a try - they're not all good but I got a lot of support and encouragement, and some helpful ideas that made life easier, from the health visitors' parenting group while my DS was waiting to be seen by CAMHS.
Whilst you're persuing assessment why not get him some support? Try some play therapy /art therapy/drama therapy sessions? They can work wonders if it's not an underlying condition but rather difficultly dealing with all life's thrown at him (a lot in a few short years) and if you can pay, then there's no waiting list.
I felt as though I had to reply to this.
My son has a dyslexia diagnosis and whilst people might think it’s ‘just dyslexia’ the emotional repercussions of it have been truly awful.
My son sounds just like yours. He’s nine. A very angry, anxious and frustrated little boy. My son has meltdowns every day and can be extremely challenging to manage. His self esteem is at rock bottom but he will not help himself despite the support he is receiving at home and at school. We have seen CAMHS for an initial assessment and he is now on the waiting list for CBT.
I really do feel for you. It’s very hard but you are not alone. People aren’t aware of the problems dyslexia causes for children. There just aren’t the resources to help them.
Please feel free to pm me if you want to talk more.
he sounds like he has anxiety, my nephew has dyslexia but is a majour majour people pleaser but children pick on him at school hes 7 so his coping skills is overtrying to be nice and please everyone. but again your son might have a more deep routed issue here, but doctors wont really be able to do anything about it for anxiety its more self coping and maby counselling? but again hes young. its really down to you having to try and find ways of helping here i think, words are powerful, self talk is very powerful, it takes a huge effort to control thoughts and practice self love, its important to start tthe day with great fullness and to end the day with what hes happy with it could be as little as finding a lady bug its about recognising good in the mist of a lot of bad so that he wont fall into depression when older because hes unable to find positives and focus on bads. keeping a journal would be great. even if you do it for him and dont tell him and write down all of the good things that happened to him that day and happy things that hes said and photos it would be a great gift to give him at christmas so he could see how many actually good things hes said and seen and done in the next 5 months, its a huge efoort but whats 5 months to your sons future mental health. nip it in the bud and research mindfulness ect. it takes huge effort but depression and anxiety are very serious and can ruin and take over his life. good luck x
also please write here in a few months so we can hear how hes doing x
also just read the comment on play therapy and art therapy those are great and also fun you can yourube them but also music therapy literally change peoples lives its often used with children that have had huge trauma.
Hi rachel I've actually just posted something similar. I'm at my wits end with my 8yo dd. She can be so lovely but also so li you describe. She doesn't have dyslexia or any developmental problems but has always been anxious and emotional. She has always been fixated on me, and like your ds won't go anywhere without me. She now has uncontrollable rages about any perceived slight, and is so focussed on how she feels, she hasn't the slightest insight into how her behaviour affects situations e.g. Complains that others have been mean to her, but can't see that shouting at them might have contributed to that.
We walk on egg shells but it's just getting worse. I really feel the time has come to get some professional help but don't know what we need. I suspect CAHMS would be a waste of time as they are so overstretched.
Kleinzeit- thank you for your advice. I will go to the gp and take it from there as it sounds like it’s worth a try. I did try to join a parenting group- the support and perspective would be lovely- but you’re not allowed to bring babies and the boobs aren’t allowed out alone yet.
Art therapy would be great for him but- too many children, not enough money. In an ideal world yes! Absolutely! He sometimes feels safe drawing because he can go abstract and not worry so much about it being correct.
Thanks! I might pm you. It’s good to know I’m not alone and I do wonder how hard dyslexia makes the world- if he can’t sequence tasks (like getting dressed) because of it. And if that doesn’t just make everyday life harder for him, more hostile and overwhelming. School, I feel is going to get tricky. He’s in a mixed age class, which helps him be less aware of his difficulties as there’s a range of abilities. He is well behind everyone in reading and writing, which is going to take its toll with other subjects soon. Plus, his little sister is great at everything which plays havoc with his ego and their relationship. Agh.
(Random aside- we went to the optitions today: dd made to go first by ds, she says no problem, doesn’t mind going first, gets in the chair, does the test, super helpful - tries to reassure the optician when he asks her to keep looking at a letter ‘yes I can still see it, it’s still there, not gone anywhere etc’ and her eye sight is fine. Ds is scared of the dark, accuses the optician of making him get it wrong by touching him (not true) and needs to practise going cross eyed for 10min a day for at least a year because something wrong with eyes. Sibling dynamics...)
Yes! The journal we’re going to do. There’s something similar- a wheel of awareness that we’ll try and I thought of making a poster with all the different feelings on it so he can name and notice positive ones too.
I hear you! The walking on eggs shells particularly. I want him to be ‘better’ for himself and his future but also for his family to have a better environment right now. Agree with you about CAHMS being so stretched it seems unlikely they’ll be anything for us but worth trying. Not sure how to deal with it on our own tho, especially as we never seem to have time for anything, yet alone fixing an entire human. Also sounds like your has the same lack of empathy combined with extreme sensitivity to ones own distress- I sympathise...
Enough writing. Bed time. Will post update once have cured ds. He is a sweetie, feel a bit bad talking about all his problems.