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ex-prem 7 yr old with emotional issues

(6 Posts)
katiek123 Sun 07-Sep-08 20:42:45

i would love to hear from anyone facing emotional problems in their ex-prem children - mine is 7 and at school now and doing great there, very bright, no outward problems relating to her prematurity - yet we have always been very challenged (good euphemism there!!!) by her behaviour and i am sometimes completely worn down and despairing over this. she was born 10 weeks prem weighing 3lbs 2oz. she had respiratory infections virtually constantly for 2 years or so then was physically much better; however we have always had a lot of problems relating to temper tantrums, frustration and a volatile temperament - much of which continues to this day, though thankfully getting better with each passing year (i don't know how we lived through the years from 2-4!). she is a delight when her mood is stable, very bright and curious and inventive, but so often family outings, trips to the pool etc end in disaster bcs her fuse, always incredibly short, just...blows. she is especially challenged by physical skills - eg learning to ride a bike (nightmareish for all concerned to date!!), monkey bars in the playground etc. she has a 5-yr-old brother who was born at term and is much more laid-back and they are great pals, which is lovely for them both, so it's by no means doom and gloom on all fronts, but i would love to hear from anyone out there experiencing similar things or with any advice. we know we are lucky not to be facing any of the disabilities so many ex-prems have to live with and yet i feel there are some subtle sequelae here that perhaps don't have a label as such but seem likely to be related to her prematurity. many thanks!

nellieP Sun 07-Sep-08 23:14:53

Hi there

My little boy is nearly 4 and was born at 30 weeks. In scbu for 6 weeks. No serious problems apart from related to prematurity i.e. apneas and bradycardia. He was a fairly good /content baby tho could be highly fractious at times - at first i just put it down to temperament and I guess that could still be the case. But there is something that just doesn't feel quite right. Noone wants to know - husband, gp, mother ,hv - everyone thinks I'm just inventing a problem (and maybe I am) but here is a list of his "behaviours". Like your little girl - he is bright, articulate, highly imaginative - all when his mood is stable.
He started tantruming very early at around 14 months and is still having bad tantrums at 4 when he doesn't get own way
Obsessive behaviours - must go first up the stairs,lines up his toy cars, obsessed with cars and alarms - will talk about alarms endlessly and the prospect of them going off, seems obsessed with burglars/robbers, won't share toys with his sister, highly attentions seeking and demanding even after having attention - in fact worse! Still not toilet trained - wets himself about 4 times a day - sometimes distracted, sometimes lazy/tired/sometimes defiant. He seems to want to control everything around him and this is major cause of tantrums - when he can't. Gets hugely angry/negative/frustrated when he can't do something. I have tried to help him by getting him to say how he feels about things when it happens i.e. I'm feeling really angry because you did such and such" and also how to calm himself down when he gets in a rage. Generally, ignoring the tantrums and then knowing at what point to step in i.e. when he needs a cuddle to help calm himself. I try empathising with how he feels first but never give in to the demand that has caused the tantrum. I find the tantrum disipates quicker. I know my biggest problem has been inconsistency and my own emotional reaction at times when I'm tired, run down. The reason I now think he may have some emotional issues is because I have a 2nd daughter who was born at term. I know all kids are different but she just feels generally more stable. The problem with having a prem though is that you never know how much is just "normal behaviour" and temperament and how much could be down to prematurity as this puts them more at risk. I don't have all the answers I'm afraid - a bit like you - still exploring it all but thought I'd just share it with you.

katiek123 Mon 08-Sep-08 09:36:31

hey nellie -thanks for your message, i SO appreciate it. i feel a bit less isolated immediately! my daughter was a 30-weeker too and similarly had no major probs in scbu tho plenty of apnoeas, bradys and other scary episodes as you mention too. so much of what you write is so familiar. i am a flippin' expert in neurotic and obsessive traits in children!!! argh. i can zoom back in time so easily to when my daughter was 4. we had just moved to australia (we spent a couple of years dowm under recently, back in uk now)and i can honestly say it was the toughest, most harrowing year of my life, sun or no sun!! this bcs her tantrums and attention-seeking were at their most intense that year. she, like your son, hugely needed/still needs to feel she controls things. massive tantrums were always the result otherwise. she was also at her most anxious - taking ages to fall asleep, constant demands for reassurance etc, frequent night wakings (i remember once shuttling between both kids 8 times one night - nothing to do with illness!). her focus was monsters rather than robbers but all the same sort of thing.attention-seeking the most difficult thing i think, bcs her bro was 2 yrs younger and obv needed a lot of input too. she was also terrible at sharing (getting better but still not keen!!) - i felt constantly torn between them and was in tears a lot that year i recall!! what i found so difficult too was that no-one really wants to know or can help - bcs, as you've probably noticed too - all the problems are theoretically those of 'normal' children too except that with her, and by the sound of it with your little boy, it's NOT normal, it just doesn't feel like a slightly exacerbated version of what everyone else is going through, which is what GPs and HVs etc try to tell you (i'm a GP myself and i am in a good position to KNOW GPs don't have all the answers, as a result!!!). she looks normal and is academically bright and is always much better controlled in the school environment than at home. i went on a parenting course while in oz to try to deal better with the tantrums (she was at pre-school at this stage) and it was very hard to put the advice into practice bcs i had a feeling that there was more to these tantrums than simple toddler willfullness and a pavlovian-style response (putting in a room for ages etc - all of which we did do) seemed not quite appropriate. i sort of muddled through with a mixture of time-out-ing and compassion - very fine tightrope to walk. bcs i could see she didn't know what the hell was going on when she launched into one of her fifty fits - it was as unenjoyable for her as for us - and felt for her so much even as i rued the situation and felt anger, despair etc over the effect on our family life!
like you, having a term baby next was such a contrast for us and quite reassuring too - not just a 'weak parenting' issue after all, the tantrums, attitude and negativity!!! her brother is much more stable, much calmer and mellower and happier in himself. an extrovert too - in contrast to her introversion.
what i can say is that age, and in our case, going to school, does improve things - at 7 she is calmer for longer periods now, and is happier generally. reading books is her - and our - lifesaver, she is a massive bookworm and we herd her into her room with a pile of books when she gets out of control nowadays and that helps to calm her. our moving around the globe didn't help at all - she hates change, as we discovered to our cost as a family! she needs stability and needs to know what is happening. she has learned to discuss her emotions and verbalise them. but we still have a lot of problems, esp with trying to teach her new skills, swimming, cycling, even telling the time - all of that stuff is going to take way longer than is the norm and i think i just have to accept that.
did you ever read a book called 'raising your spirited child'? (mary sheedy kurcinka) it is the only childcare manual i ever found that was of some help - bcs 'spiritedness' by the author's definition did cover some of my little girl's behavioural traits and by the sound of it some of your son's. the others i found of very limited use i must say. we also once asked a private psychologist to assess her but that was a waste of time too - she didn't have much to add that i couldn't have learned from a book or didn't know already. sigh. it's just a bit of a lonely experience at times i find!! thanks for writing and keep in touch! kate

katiek123 Wed 10-Sep-08 09:53:18

by the way i read an interesting article in the times yesterday - ex-prems 4 times more likely to suffer behavioural and emotional problems than their peers. boys more often adhd type behaviour, girls more anxiety/depression. this study was done on v early babies - 25 weeks i think it was - warwick university - but still food for thought...

nellieP Thu 11-Sep-08 19:38:26

Hi again katie

Wow thats a really interesting read. Thanks for coming back to me. I've just read the times article and I've also heard something from another friend of a prem baby whose boy is very introverted and obsessive/routine oriented, and apparently the part of the brain that controls social function develops in the last few weeks of pg. Hence its very common that in prem babies this doesn't develop as well.

You sound very much like me. I have wondered whether some of the trauma I experienced having a prem baby has a lot to do with it aswell. It changed me massively as a person. Noone except people that have experienced it ever really understand. I have always been a bit of a worrier and probably not the best candidate for such an experience but I have never felt so much gut wrenching anxiety and stress as I felt in scbu. It lived with me for a long long time after (and thinking about it now can still reduce me to tears). I became quite negative as a person and people got very frustrated with me. I think maybe riaghan learnt early on how to manipulate my anxiety and being quite an intelligent little boy is actually enjoying the wind up!! It certainly nets him alot of attention.
Also i think I worked so hard giving him attention before I had number 2 to ensure he wasn't behind that maybe why he expects so much.
I like you spent a huge amount of time especially when number 2 came along in tears. I've had the night wakings /monsters under the bed phase aswell. And oodles of reassurance.
The "hates change" bit rings very true with Riaghan aswell. He just loves an ordered routine and gets upset when taken out of that. I have to be extremely careful in how I transition him from one activity to the next. I might look up that book you recommended. good talking to you. And you are certianly not alone! take care xx

katiek123 Mon 15-Sep-08 20:49:56

hi nellie - great to hear from you. been losing my centreparcs virginity over the weekend!! had never been before and went to the longleat one with the tykes - was actually great fun - had been quite ambivalent but kids loved it so i quite see the point of the places now. bit of a nightmare coming back on the train (no husband, he'd sneaked off on a walking weekend in the brecons, very bloody nice for some!!) as when it came to change trains both kids were in toilet poo'ing (had gone off in state of high glee together all grown up and excited) and i had almost fallen into one of those short dribbly micro-naps!! i almsot had a stroke through stress. had to literally drag child number one off the toilet mid-cr*p. nice!!

where were we... yes, so, fascinating re social function developing in final weeks - guess it makes sense but hadn't thought of it like that before!god i really know what you mean re transitioning. that was one of the biggest challenging and still is. much worse than for the average child. that 'spirited child' book is excellent on this. it's also great on the differences between extroversion and introversion as far as recharging batteries is concerned - for your child's personality type and your own. i have to balance my dtr's need for calm and quiet time against the rest of the family's (varying) needs.

ordered routine is key isn't it. we find holidays can be challenging for that reason. and control is what it's all about for my dtr too. basically she has dominated our family from the beginning really and to be honest we were not prepared for that at all. (one of the spirited book chapters has a paragraph headed 'letting go of your dream child' which made me weep buckets, bcs it's true - i didn't have the child i was expecting to have, and i didn't have the parenting experience i expected to have either. guess the same probably goes for you.) it took me about three years or so to gird myself to managing the confrontations - i used to constantly pussy-foot around to try and make everything alright for her (and to an extent still do, tho less), bcs i felt for her so much, 1., and 2. bcs i don't like confrontation. but hey - i've had to get over that last one(!!).

i too tend to anxiety anyway nellie and god knows none of us will ever forget those scbu ups and downs, they're engraved on our hearts aren't they. when things were at their worst (aged 4 and 2 which is where you're at isn't it - i PROMISE it gets better) i got awful palpitations and weight loss, insomnia, the whole lot, but thankfully that particularly awful era is more or less behind me, mostly, though anxiety is always there hovering in the background.

who knows why some of us have it tougher than others - i don't have the answers to that but like you i am not the same person as i was before having this child, my adored and t-e-s-t-i-n-g little girl, and perhaps it's all about teaching us what we needed to learn in this life (advancing a vaguely buddhist and pretty ill-thought-out line of thought i sometimes comfort myself with). or perhaps it's just entirely random! sigh.
anyway do keep in touch! so nice to feel less alone with all of this stuff x

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