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Q&A with clinical child psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin about helping your child deal with new and challenging situations - ANSWERS BACK

(57 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Sep-13 11:03:46

This week we have Dr Angharad Rudkin, a chartered Clinical Child Psychologist on hand to answer your questions on how to help children deal with difficult situations, for example divorce, separation, bereavement, house moves or starting school.  

Dr Rudkin has years of experience of working with children and their families who are experiencing difficulties ranging from toddler tantrums to family breakdown. She is also frequently consulted about child psychology issues by the media, including television and radio. Post your questions before midday Monday 16 September we'll post up her answers on Monday 23rd September. Everyone who posts a question will be entered into a draw to win a £40 hamper from Organix.

This Q&A is sponsored by Organix

insanityscratching Mon 09-Sep-13 16:32:22

Dd is 10 and has ASD she is just starting puberty and finding it very difficult to cope with her body changing. I have taken the approach of a little information given often but she finds it upsetting. She wasn't able to stay in the class for the whole of the puberty chat (given twice) even with TA support as she was so overwhelmed. It isn't helped by her sheer terror of blood so she is on hyper alert at the first mention of puberty because she is waiting for the mention of periods.
What should I be doing and how can I help her?

GrrArgh Mon 09-Sep-13 16:48:58

My son is 9, an only child, and practically all his life has had trouble respecting physical boundaries. When he was a toddler, he was always the one who would just hit another kid with a stick for no reason. He bit and lashed out when angry. Now at his age, he is getting into repeated trouble and I am ashamed to say has recently bitten another child (in anger and defence as far as I am aware). He is highly verbal and lashes out with words too; he cannot not speak, he pipes up in class all the time and we've had to stop going to certain out-of-school activities because of his constant sarcastic interruptions and pushing other children.

At home his environment is calm and unchallenging and he plays in the street with other children happily, with minimal trouble. He's industrious and imaginative. We are moving house and school in the next few months, and he is not keen, but seems reasonable when we talk to him about it (we reassure him we will keep in touch with friends). However it coincides with a recent spate of incidents.

I don't want to label him as a bad kid (of course he is sweet and kind too), but this is the label he is using for himself. It isn't malice as far as I can tell, it seems to be almost a compulsion to touch and push and hit. For years and years when hugging me, he would run at me full pelt and barrel into me, hurting me many times. He hugs me with a horrible squeeze. I have talked to him about it all his life and he has only just been able to stop that. We have basically been dealing with the aftermath of him hurting other children all his life and we are at our wits' end.

What can we do? Please don't say explain to him the power of his words, explain to him that he can't do this, ground him, take his toys away: that is the only advice we have ever had and it has made no difference.

GrrArgh Mon 09-Sep-13 16:51:47

(Sorry I forgot to say that he was assessed by EdPsych at age 4.7 and declared to be 'something of a busy brain.' hmm )

CC77 Mon 09-Sep-13 17:52:53


For as long as I can remember my son has had what I would call a 'tick', or an action that he repeats obsessively in times of stress. Whenever one action appears to have stopped, it is not long before I notice he is doing something else with the same sort of compulsion e.g. for a few months it was blinking, then it was compulsively wiping food into his hair, the most dramatic was taking big gulps of air mid-sentence, and currently it is licking his finger and wiping it on a part of his body. I have never been able to establish who I should see about this - I asked a health visitor when he was going through his blinking phase and she just referred me to an optician and didn't really get it. The actions become more pronounced around the start of a new school term (now) or in new situations where he is overwhelmed. Should I just accept this is comforting to him, or should I be addressing it? Many thanks.

CottonWoolCandy Mon 09-Sep-13 18:49:22

Dd is nearly 5 and has recently started school. She knows most of her classmates from nursery. She was a bit upset going into school in the mornings but now (although not happy) will go in easily. However during the day she has started to lash out at two of the other children. She has known them for over a year and always played well with them in the past. We can't seem to identify any triggers for this change towards them.
Although she's an only child, she is comfortable playing with other children as she has lots of cousins and neighbours. Hitting other children has never been an issue although she has sometimes lashed out at myself and dh. The teacher says she is bright but can get distracted in class. The teacher uses a reward chart in class although in some ways it seems the opposite of a reward chart as the children start with a sticker in a certain place and if they misbehave it moves. dd's sticker ends up being moved every day.
I know dd is tired and school is a big adjustment but it's not acceptable that she is hitting other children and I want to support her through this challenging time. We use a sticker chart at home (where we reward good behaviour - if she misbehaves then she doesn't get a sticker in that area but the chart has different areas so she is always guaranteed some stickers as she is consistently sharing and good at tidying up her toys.)
Myself and dh are unsure whether the reward chart at home should reflect what is happening in school or not. Dh thinks the school chart deals with those issues and the home chart should deal with what we see. I understand that but am trying to make it clear that hitting is not acceptable anywhere. We need to give her techniques to channel her anger and have tried identifying a safe place to go; punching a pillow; drawing her anger with pens/crayons, etc. I'm not sure what else to try. Thanks for any help/advice you can offer.

PenguinBear Mon 09-Sep-13 21:52:28

I am a teacher and could really do with some advice about supporting a 4 year old child through the bereavement of his father. He seems to have no boundaries at home and his behaviour can be very erratic and would like to know how best to handle this?
Thank you!

thornrose Tue 10-Sep-13 00:07:58

Hi, my dd is 13 and her dad died very suddenly 3 years ago. (She has AS which may or may not be relevant.) She seems to be at the same point with her grief and I expected it to have become less "raw" as the years went on.

I just worry that she needs something I'm not giving her in order to help her feel a bit better.

I suppose I am asking if this seems "normal" or should I be looking at getting her some bereavement counselling?

BobbyGentry Tue 10-Sep-13 00:21:27

Hello Dr Angharad Rudkin,
I teach third-culture-kids (TCK)/global nomads in an affluent overseas British international school. The well-qualified/high expectations parents usually take up a two to four year employment contracts then return 'home' or start new contracts in pastures new. This means the community is very transient. Usually, the children experience culture shock for the first 3 months. School is very British and the kids just 'get it' but everything else can be altogether too much to bare (new foods, friends, away from family ect.) Many of the children are working on second or third language skills too as well as taking on a new school, home and country.
My question to you is, 'how best to assimilate TCKs into their new and temporary environment (entry and exit)?'

pickledsiblings Tue 10-Sep-13 12:53:18

My son (aged 9) has dark/negative thoughts that he has been able to articulate well since about age 4. They are usually things that he doesn't want to think like that he doesn't love us, he feels fake when he's well behaved, he comforted his brother but actually didn't really care that he was upset etc. My husband and I have put it down to him being a "deep thinker". I tell him that everyone has negative thoughts and to try not to dwell on them.

Do you have any advice for me.

EustachiaVye Tue 10-Sep-13 18:10:12

Hello Dr Rudkin, My dd (aged 10) lost her grandfather suddenly three months ago. She was very close to him indeed and misses him terribly. Since his death, her attitude has worsened. She refuses to do what she is asked, but I'm not sure whether this relates to the bereavement or is part of her growing up (or both!) There have been a few incidents where she has wet herself.
I wonder whether a bereavement counsellor would help? I think my worry is that perhaps she will then dwell on her sadness even more. Sometimes she appears to be fine. She has had fears that I didn't anticipate, for example, she worried that his grave would get overgrown. She was reassured when I explained that the gravel would stop grass growing, but my concern is that I will miss some underlying fear that she has on her mind. Thank you for any advice you can offer.

tricot39 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:54:43

Food is a challenging situation for my son. It has been since he was 4 weeks old. He is now 4.5 years. We think he maybe had acid reflux as a baby and developed anxieties which he still trouble him. He has an extremely limited range of acceptable foods, is generally cautious and dislikes mess. we havetaken advice on how to (and not to) deal with the food but he hasn't added anything to his acceptable food list for years. my husband wants to try non mealtime games/de-sensitisation exercises but i think we should just take a step back and wait until he is ready. hearsay suggests this could be until he is over 18!! any suggestions on how tp help him with his food phobias?

linspins Wed 11-Sep-13 14:15:00

Hello. Like CC77 my dd has tics - for example blinking and rolling eyes sideways, making odd 'huffing' noises with her breath, touching her fingertip to her tongue, and clapping hands together, or slapping thigh. They come and go - she is also a fidget generally, and a bright child, a thinker too. I have seen a GP twice, both times told it's just a phase and nothing to worry about. But these tics can distress her, and can wear her out. We've tried to make sure there is nothing too stressful in her life, and tried lavender foot massages at bedtime. I wonder what causes tics and if there are ways to alleviate them?

impecuniousmarmoset Thu 12-Sep-13 12:25:45

My 5 yo DD has started reacting excessively to minor injuries (tiny cuts and bumps suchlike) - they send her into a panic attack, with extreme sobbing/howling and complete inability to get herself under control for extended periods (20mins+). She has other minor possible sensory issues (intolerance of sock seams and tight trouser bands, tendency to be v. passive socially, and withdraw totally in groups of children - totally fine one on one), but is otherwise happy and thriving. No particular major life upheavals otherwise, though we are expecting a third baby which she appears very happy about. We're at a loss with how to deal with these episodes - they are obviously extremely distressing to her, quite dramatic and apparently totally at odds with the actual pain involved. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Waswildatheart Thu 12-Sep-13 19:15:29

My 11 year old DD gets extremely anxious about staying overnight anywhere without us. She really, really wants to, e.g. Go on an overnight school trip, and we book her on but she gets progressively more stressed so we have to cancel. Same with sleepovers. She is very self conscious about this and has been teased a little at school. We would not worry if she didn't but she feels like she is missing out. Are we best stopping all plans, trying to break her in gently or are there strategies that could help? Year 7 whole year (school is making a big deal about everyone going) two night activity break is coming up in November so any guidance would be great please.

InmaculadaConcepcion Thu 12-Sep-13 20:19:26

Hello Dr AR!

My DD (3.5 yo) has a common but distressing problems - she withholds her stools. We're not sure what triggered it, but it went on for about a year before we got her onto a laxative programme, which she has been on for over nine months.

She is much better than she was - has a bowel movement most days without too much trauma, but we still mostly have to remind/cajole/negotiate/pressure her into going - and she still insists on a nappy for this, despite being otherwise potty/toilet trained.

DD has to take two sachets of Movicol everyday to ensure regularity and frankly, I would really like to be able to start reducing the dose and helping her move towards a better relationship with her BMs.

Is there anything we can do?


crowson Thu 12-Sep-13 21:46:59


My 5 year old daughter has trouble settling into some new situations. When she moved up to a new swimming class she was fine for a couple of weeks and then for the next 5 or 6 weeks would cry during every lesson and would always complain of having tummy ache on the morning of her lessons. She usually loves swimming and had been looking forward to the class. She has also recently started trampolining and was really looking forward to going, but when she got there wouldn't try anything and just cried for the whole hour.

She doesn't like not being able to do things and is quite a perfectionist. She also can't recognise that other children she sees may be older or more experienced and compares herself to them which upsets her as she isn't as good as them in her eyes (although she is more than capable).

She started school last September, along with a couple of friends and has had no problems there.

I try and explain to her what to expect, and try to encourage her by telling her that she has done well at swimming etc, but she still gets upset. How can I stop her from getting upset in these new situations?

NomDeClavier Thu 12-Sep-13 21:59:16

Ever since we moved house 3 months ago DS (2.5) hasn't used the toilet or the potty. He was doing really well, although not toilet trained, but now he sits on the potty or toilet and doesn't do anything. He usually soaks his nappy within 5 minutes of it being put on and asks for a change so he clearly needs to go. I can't help but think this is linked to the move, and also the fact we're expecting DC2 in December, and somehow this is stressing him but nothing seems to help him relax.

How can we help him adjust to the new toilet?!

Hopezibah Thu 12-Sep-13 22:22:14

My son (aged 9) who has ASD has become increasingly unmanageable. We get no support or advice from anyone and I am at a loss what to do. We think it is because of changes relating to other family members (sibling has changed schools) and a change of timetable too where we are doing things on different days. We know that change unsettles him - and we use things like social stories and going through plans with him, but then he still refuses to take part / join in / do what he's supposed to at the crucial moment.

Is this a behaviour that can be managed or could there be a further diagnosis needed like PDA or ODD?

It is worth mentioning that rewards or sanctions have very little effect on him.

thank you.

RobinBedRest Fri 13-Sep-13 22:25:22

My DS is 4 and just started reception. When he comes home happy he will freely tell me lots of things that have happened in his day.

I would welcome advice on how to handle it when he comes home less happy, doesn't freely offer any details about his day and seems to resent any questions.

On the one hand I want to help him if he is having any problems but my instincts tell me to leave him be and not pester him!

ThePFJ Sat 14-Sep-13 22:42:33

My DS of 5 years old loves his vegetables which is a miracle I know....and is happy to try anything like a vegetable.... anything else and he screams the house down... we usually have to force it into his mouth, at which point he says 'Actually I like that'. But he forgets that every time we give him something new he likes it..... And I do not like having to 'make' him try things. We try to explain to him that it is important to try new foods.... but it's hard going.... Any advice?

Please Please Please??? Thank you so much xxxxxxxxxxx

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sun 15-Sep-13 10:12:37

Hello Dr Rudkin,

DD1 is 8 yo. She is panicking if a situation doesn't turn out as she has expected, especially if it is a new situation. I am not really sure how to describe it, but she hangs to me, refuses eye contact with whom ever is talking to her, cries, if she is antagonised she will go into a panic attack; her previous school describe it as such when she was 6 but the paediatrician at the time put it on end of year's fatigue.

Often the panic is for things that nobody can control, like the train being late (even if in station right in front of her eyes) or the new teacher being male or the disco being too noisy.

DH is worried that we are allowing her to "get away with it" and my parents would have told me to stop being stupid and eventually punished me in the same situation.

She does seems really distressed at the time, I am pretty certain this is not attention seeking. She has always been like that as a baby as well. If she calms down she can usually enjoy the situation, like a party.

What I am worried is that she does rely on me too much because I am usually able to calm her down, I would like to give her tools to do it herself. Any ideas?
We have bought her "what to do when you worry too much" which helped her a bit but she refused to share it with us she went through the book on her own.
She needs a detailed explanation of situations that we sometime forget as she has a little sister which gets in the way, and has a tendency to take everything literally.

We have recently relocated, she has started a new school in a different country and has been incredibly brave with it all, and it is not the 1st time as we were expats so it is not like is not used to new things. We will probably move again soon.

Sorry this is so long, thanks for your help.

SavoyCabbage Sun 15-Sep-13 10:59:36

Hi, I emigrated to Australia when my daughters were 2 and 5. They are now 7 and 10 and we are going back in December.

I'm worried about the transition for them, especially as my husband has been refused a visa. But that's another story.

They are going to leave everything they know. Their home. School. Friends. Possessions. It takes months for our things to be shipped.

When we came, my oldest was told to stand in the shade on her first day of school. She didn't know what shade was! Now they won't know about snow, dinner ladies, tights, phonics, bonfire night etc.

I want to know how to help them with the change and feel safe and secure when the only constant is me and each other.

anotetofollowso Sun 15-Sep-13 14:11:10

Hello Dr,

I'm another one with a nine year old DS I'm concerned about. He doesn't really have friends, and is boastful and rivalrous with the one good friend he does have. Recently the other boy burst into tears saying my DS always 'teases' (ie taunts) him about the things that DS does better him. I have tried punishment, reasoning and sweet talking with DS but I just cant seem to improve his social skills. I would be very grateful for any advice you can give.

Punkatheart Sun 15-Sep-13 22:29:45

My daughter's father left us two years ago and she went into shock, with a lot of serious physical symptoms and then some very worrying mood issues. She has run away, taken drugs and threatened to kill herself. I am ill myself with lymphoma and I am finding her beyond challenging. We are signed up for counselling but have been waiting for ages. The worst thing is her aggressive behaviour. How do I deal with aggression - I end up trying to ignore it and then I get cross myself.

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