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Feel like DD Y1 is slipping and getting increasingly unhappy

(10 Posts)
lucysnowe Mon 10-Feb-14 22:54:32

(sorry for length!)

I have been getting more and more worried about DD at school, not sure if it is unfounded or not. It’s a lovely, smallish, rural school and the teachers and head seem super nice and caring. In Foundation DD had a few issues fitting in with the schedule and playing with some of her classmates (she is very enthusiastic but also v. stubborn and can explode when she doesn’t get her way sad ). However in Y1 she was star of the week the very first week because the teacher saw such a difference in her – said she was really helpful and keen to learn. I think she appreciated the more rigid structure and rules.

But now she is slipping again. She seems generally happy but tells me the other kids call her a baby and don't want to play with her. She is quite babyish, very skippy and ‘hello sky hello trees’ kind of thing; this is very cute but it means she is also v. emotionally immature IMHO and doesn’t know how to cope with stressful situations or communicate her feelings.

Last week the head called me in for a talk because she had bitten one of the boys sad. This is the second time she’s done this at school. As before, she exploded and got very, very upset and took a lot of calming down. We have had a lot of discussions about her temper and while she can tell me what she should do when she’s calm, but when she’s upset it all goes out the window. At home as well occasionally if she doesn’t get her way she gets violent and starts hitting etc.

Academically as well I am a little bit worried. She is okay for reading and maths but her writing is definitely below average I think. She doesn’t write at all at home (makes excuses not to, and I don’t want to push it) and only writes about a sentence or so at school. DH was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia and had (and still has) a lot of trouble writing with a pen (no trouble typing) and I am worried she is suffering from it too. I often see posts on mn about boys not writing, but never girls sad.

Anyway I am going to discuss all this again with her teacher but I wondered if anyone else had a child in a similar position - very emotionally immature and insecure – and if it got better and how I can make things better for her. Any advice appreciated.

tiredbutnotweary Tue 11-Feb-14 21:17:50

Read your post this morning but didn't have time to post then & can't believe no ones posted in the meantime.

So two problems, behaviour and writing.

First off behaviour, or rather struggling with managing her feeling and perhaps expressing her needs (leading to the explosions). Get some books (there are some really good ones), and start communicating with her about her feelings, and explaining what feeling are. Help her to identify her feelings e.g. you're sounding sad/cross/happy - this will validate her feelings. Remember feelings are ok, even anger, we all get them, it's how we deal with our feelings that matter and feelings pass, they come and WILL go.

One of the best ways to manage feelings, especially anger, fear and sadness, is through relaxed breathing. I've used the following technique with DD for years now - hold up fingers wiggling them, explain that these are birthday candles and need blowing out with long slow breathes, drop various fingers intermittently in response to them being blown on & repeat until DC has more relaxed breathing (I've seen GP's & nurses faces light up watching this technique)!

You could also try getting your DD to pretend she's blowing up an imaginary balloon, again with long slow breathes, say she is blowing all of the angry feeling into a (red) balloon, when it's full she let's it go and you then make the silly noise as you both imagine it rushing around - the sillier the better.

Also simply getting her to put her hands on her lower tummy and focussing on her breathing. Of course you need to explain how this works and practice the exercises first when she's not feeling angry, so that she will perhaps go along with you in the future when her emotions rise. Ideally you need to get her to use these techniques before a total meltdown, so understanding her triggers and noticing her warnings signs will help.

Practicing a martial art is useful for managing emotions, the discipline and confidence gained can make a huge difference, the same would apply for kiddie yoga, but if you're really rural then those might not be options.

Talk to the school about her having a safe place to go if she starts to feel overwhelmed (10 minutes in the reading corner can be all that's needed) and it's surely better if she gets to use her 'flight' rather than 'fight' response to stress.

As much as you can, try and model this behaviour yourself - even if it's just to say "I feel frustrated so I'm taking 5 minutes time out" (this is easier said than done of course but if your DD see's you doing it yourself it really will help her see it's possible, not to mention let her know that her feelings are normal).

I hope that's helpful - I'm sure it won't be everyone's cup of tea but all these things have helped my DD. Oh yes and every time she manages her feelings, even if it's after 10 minutes of ranting, then praise, praise, praise - well done you're relaxing your breathing or whatever.

The writing just needs little and often and colouring in and drawing, dot to dot, play doh etc. all help to build the muscles and fine motor control and it is better that she colours / draws happily if writing is leading to battles.

Equally keep trying every so often - you could try making story books together, she does the picture and first word and then dictates the story for you to write (little stories one sentence a page type of thing), & you gradually increase the amount of words she writes herself. This will get her creating stories, letters whatever and when her writing catches up she'll fly. Plus you are modelling to her that writing is fun and has a benefit (lovely books that you can read / share with her, which are her very own stories - she's an author)!

If you can manage to squeeze in a few play dates so she can strengthen her friendships too then so much the better.

I realise I've bombarded you and it may not be practical to do everything (or perhaps nothing I've suggested may appeal) but good luck & flowers - with you looking out for her I'm sure you can help her find her confidence and stay focussed on the joys of the world around her.

throwinshapes Tue 11-Feb-14 21:23:51

Some really good relaxation tips there. Thanks for that smile

lucysnowe Wed 12-Feb-14 11:55:29

Thankyou so much for your reply tiredbutnotweary, I was worried that people didn't want to respond to a big long bleeaaaugh of text. smile

She has had a not bad time this week, and a good playdate on Monday, so feeling a bit more positive.

I really like the idea of the birthday candles and the balloon, and the safe space. (The only issue is that she sometimes gets a bit destructive when she's explosive so she can't be anywhere where things could get damaged.)

Her main problem I think is communicative, she often gets upset saying 'I'm trying to TELL YOU something' and she usually puts herself in the hard done by position ('Daddy hurt me' etc when he has been putting out his hand to stop her hitting him etc). I think she genuinely feels threatened.

Like the idea of martial arts too, there are a few classes around. At the moment she is doing a kind of drama class which she enjoys, I suggested she 'act' like a different character when she is feeling upset, I don't know if that was wise lol.

Ah the writing, it is a worry. I actually don't write much myself when she's around so for her to see me forming words too will probably help.

Thanks again for the advice, that's really cheered me up. :-)

tiredbutnotweary Wed 12-Feb-14 13:37:37

Hi lucy,

It's a pleasure - I know what it feels like to watch a post sinking like a stone, and tend to be one of the longer posters too (slight understatement, ahem)!

It's great to hear that she's had a better week and don't worry too much if she doesn't take to the suggestions straightaway - keep trying or at least keep trying new things as well. When she's being physical it might help to try getting down on her level, insisting on eye contact with a low but firm voice (i.e. look at at, look at my eyes) and then continuing on a the low firm voice, say "It's not ok to hit, Mummy and Daddy don't hit, it isn't kind and you won't get what you want by hitting" - then maybe follow that with "let's try blowing", or really anything to break the tension for her.

Another idea which might work is being a rocket, so she scrunches up into a ball making a rocket taking off noise and then gradually comes out of her crouch standing up tall and stretching up her arms, while you do a count down, you reach lift off as she's stretched up tall and then grab her round the middle and lift her up even further to touch the ceiling. I guess the ideas are all about moving her focus back into her own body and releasing tension.

It's interesting that she says "I'm trying to tell you something" - you could try introducing a listening item (it could be a cuddly toy or something else that she finds appealing). Whoever holds the item gets to talk until they've finished, the item then gets passed on. No interrupting, you only get to talk while holding the item. It's surprisingly challenging, even for adults, but does a super job of clearly showing that everyone gets a chance to be heard.

I find animals are a great acting tool. My DD, whilst being quite young and emotional, is very shy. When she feels like this I say "Where's my little tiger" and we do gentle roars to each other - it's incredibly effective and may work for you if you try out different gentle animals or animals with various attributes (like an owl with listening ears)!

Wishing you and your DD all the best flowers

lucysnowe Wed 12-Feb-14 13:51:50

Those are great suggestions, too, thank you.

I prob should have posted this in Behaviour tbh smile although it's her biting at school I am most worried about.

I like the idea of a listening item (a conch haha)! Once I did suggest she drew what she was trying to say, which actually went very well - I will try that again, although it takes a bit of time. The problem is that when she is explosive I get angry/defensive too and find it hard to remember to do these things with her.

I'm glad these things are working with your DD, do you find she is getting better at coping? I'm hoping that DD will get to understand herself a bit more and, when she can read/write better, find quieter ways to let off steam (I think she is fundamentally quite introverted, although she is v. bouncy).

tiredbutnotweary Wed 12-Feb-14 21:48:57

Yes, all introverts over here too!

Poor DD had a meltdown tonight (about an envelope, long story) I had to be on phone with MiL & DH couldn't calm her down - for a moment I felt cross as call with MiL was important (cancer treatment) but DD gets upset with herself - she cries & can't stop, so I followed my own advice & got her blowing up the imaginary red ballon & within about 30 seconds she'd stopped crying and bath time proceeded.

Staying centered is hard, especially if you have sensitivities yourself (lots of sensory integration problems in our family) & I've found the best way is to try & be prepared, have a tool kit available and as much as possible stay ahead of your DDs moods. Get to know her tells, the things she does before going into full on melt down & this will help you steer her on a different course - ideally in ways that she will eventually internalise to use independently.

Also remember to give yourself permission for a time out - 10 minutes is all it takes, it doesn't matter what form (within reason), so could be mummy needs to read a book on the loo, play loud fun music, stick ear plugs in, draw how she's feeling - whatever safe and creative way you can find.

Also you could each have a happy face jar where marbles or pasta go, when the jar is full you get a reward, poor behaviour and one gets removed (I'm talking small jars here, like 10 - 15cm high). This leads to a consequence that is low key and you can use it before you get impatient & frustrated. Staying calm is key, calm, firm and consistent. I find this hardest with raging PMT but it is highly effective, whilst getting frustrated never is, or if it is, it comes with feeling crap as I know there are much better ways.

If you can get hold of the Tanya Byron series, it's called something like House of Tiny Tearaways, (try Amazon maybe) then watch it - she models some amazing parenting skills, especially being firm but calm, I loved that series so much!

PS the drawing is a superb idea, do it as much as possible - also a musical instrument so she can play how she's feeling too (you may need the earplugs though grin)

AGoodPirate Wed 12-Feb-14 22:10:12

(I am going to bed but will reply now so that I will remember to reply more properly in the morning.)

lucysnowe Thu 13-Feb-14 11:59:00

Aha thankyou pirate!

The marble jar sounds like a good idea (we have one at school). We do reward charts occasionally when I want her to do something specific.

'Tells' - yes, that is a tricky one. Sometimes it builds up, she has a week of being anxious about something/not sleeping then explodes. Also when she has to stop something she is really interested in. But I need to be able to spot them more easily I think!

tiredbutnotweary Thu 13-Feb-14 13:47:51

I'd say be extra prepared for tiredness, hunger and post illness (i.e. in the week or so after being ill DD becomes much more argy bargy) and critically transitions. So if DD's really into something I tempt her with something fun to draw her away and help her move on - knowing what's coming next really helps her leave most activities (the exception is playing with friends, nothing much tops that). By tempting activities I mean stories, music or story CDs, colouring, stickers - just other stuff she loves to do. TV & chocolate biscuits are for emergencies only. I also have to have a no TV during the week rule as she gets too into it & with such a black & white rule there is no room for arguments. You just have to try to work out what works for you & your DD.

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