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Can't figure out how to help DD

(7 Posts)
vladthedisorganised Fri 26-Aug-16 00:33:31

DD is generally a happy kid and tends to come across as bright.

She had a mixed report at the end of term and her teachers advised that she really needs to read and write every day - perhaps keeping a holiday diary - which we did stick to for a week before DD managed to break her collarbone which meant she couldn't write, learn to swim, learn to ride a bike or any of the other grand plans I had for this summer! (It's fine now though) To add to the mess, my dad is very ill and I am now juggling his care and keeping things as normal as possible for DD, though she is aware of what's happening.

Up to recently she really enjoyed drawing and painting, she liked playing music and I could generally get her involved in baking, gardening and stuff. Now all she seems interested in is the TV - to the extent that even suggesting anything else is met with tears and tantrums. If she thinks anything is 'too hard' - which is pretty much everything other than watching TV - she'll do the absolute minimum and storm off. She insists she can only play one note on the piano (she can usually play simple tunes with both hands), rips up her drawings for being 'no good' and will only attempt to read toddler-level books - anything else is dismissed as 'too hard' and she'll refuse to go any further / throw the book across the room in tears if she can't read a word immediately; but she wants the reward at the end of it (so insists that she'll do the library reading scheme but doesn't want to actually read anything when it comes down to it) She's refused to write a single word in four weeks and scribbles in her 'made up language' if she picks up a pen at all.

I've really tried hard to be understanding and to model all the (many, many) things I'm 'no good' at so she knows it's not a big deal not to get things right first time- but it doesn't seem to help. When I try to get her involved in fun things she usually likes, she insists that she 'hates them all' now and only likes watching TV or 'buying things'. She'll also insist she 'doesn't want to talk about it' whenever she gets upset.

I'm sure it's a reaction to all the crap going on with my dad, but I hate to see my usually curious DD vegetate like this, and the temper tantrums are new as well. I have no idea how to help other than try until I explode not to get too frustrated - I know that I shouldn't let her watch TV at all though it's hard to police when I can be on the phone to the hospital at any given time!

Sorry for the rambling post - just wondered if anyone else had been in a similar position and might have ideas about how I can realistically help DD?

Andro Fri 26-Aug-16 17:24:45

How old is she?

vladthedisorganised Sat 27-Aug-16 11:03:24

Sorry - brain fog! She's 6.

Andro Sat 27-Aug-16 17:28:30

My first thought is that she's reacting to the combination of a painful injury, her grandfather being ill and your stress about your father, she's retreated to a type of emotional safety because her world was rattled.

She has had an injury which significantly (if temporarily) impacted her and wrecked fun plans; it's not uncommon for that to get a person down, if she's feeling low and then also picking up on your worry about your dad then she may be experiencing some anxiety but not know what it is/how to articulate it/how to ask for help.

We used to use emotion faces to help ds describe what he was feeling, he could pick as many as needed so sometimes we had 'sick', 'shakey', 'frozen' and worried all at the same time - for ds that added up to a ptsd episode being imminent but he started to recognise it which was good. Maybe trying to talk to your DD using something similar could help you get to the bottom of this? She might need lots of reassurance that you won't be cross with anything she says.

vladthedisorganised Mon 05-Sep-16 16:00:13

Thanks Andro. My father's condition has worsened significantly and I've noticed an increase in her temper outbursts too which is understandable. She also mentioned how much she misses my mum - who died when she was three but I think it's all resurfacing now. The last week has been incredibly chaotic for all concerned and it wasn't really a surprise when she said she was dreading going back to school because she was scared the work would be too hard for her - I think in the back of her mind she may also be scared that she'll lose her granddad too.

Her teacher does know what's going on and the school were wonderful with her last time we had a family emergency (when she started school) so I'm sure she'll get a lot of support again this time. I am working on getting her to tell me what she's feeling - Inside Out has helped a lot as I can ask who is 'at the controls' at any given time. We talked last night about ways to manage anger outbursts- exercise didn't go down well (not helped by my giving both her and me a crap diet recently) but she seemed to find really daft things like playing the kazoo helped a bit.

Andro Mon 05-Sep-16 23:45:26

Daft is good, anything that lifts the atmosphere without being choreographed. Poor diet would also partly explain her lack of energy, it will also impact her moods. Life sounds really tough for all of you, it's not surprising that your dd has reached the limit of her ability to cope.

Are you still maintaining boundaries for your dd? When my dc were in emotional hell and I felt least able to be firm, that was when they needed the reassurance of predictable expectations/consequences the most.

I know it's a MN cliche but be kind to yourself, I hope things settle down soon.

vladthedisorganised Tue 06-Sep-16 09:32:08

As far as possible, yes. I am quite laissez-faire about fussy eating ('well, that's what there is today, I'm not making you another meal' rather than hovering to ensure she eats at least 10 carrots or whatever) and she does end up watching more TV than I would like - mainly while I'm informing the family and social services of my dad's condition and can't give her 100% of my attention. However, I have stuck to the basics while trying not to lose it myself. I am trying to congratulate myself inwardly for every time I say 'no, I'm not asking you, I'm telling you, and I expect you to pick up your things when I tell you to do so -now put all of the Lego that is on the floor in the box right there before you do anything else' (for instance ) rather than yelling.

The structure of school is likely to help and I'm trying to enforce physical activity every day - not easy when I'm not sleeping but I can't prioritise myself at this stage (or ever really!)

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