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Worrying about 7 year old’s behaviour

4 replies

Whatthechicken · 11/02/2022 18:12

Hi all, can I pick your brains please.

3.5 years ago me and my husband adopted a wonderful (but very anxious) 3.5 year old and his younger sister. Trauma has manifested itself very differently in both of them - but they both had very different early years experience with birth mum.

7 year old has always been very compliant at school, never in trouble, one of the best readers in his class, has good friends (although he does drift sometimes between different groups) and has a lovely relationship with his sister.

Last week he had a very difficult time at school, he got in trouble, not listening, not doing as he’s told (unheard of), he said something really mean to someone and his behaviour is escalating at home. Today he hit and kicked someone (really not the little boy I know). Sometimes he finds it difficult to focus on you if you are trying to talk to him…sometimes it feels as if he looks straight through you. He has difficulty backing down - even when he knows it gets him into more trouble. MH issues and anxiety in BF. It really does have a huge resemblance to when he first came to us, the anxiety manifested in repeating himself, getting angry, always thinking that ‘he’s bad’.

For the last few years we’ve all trundled along fine. But recently we’ve had a death in the birth family, and the death of a much loved adoptive grandad, multiple teachers at school everyday due to absence of his form tutor since Christmas, our house has been upside down due to works going on, friendships have been changing (as they do at 7 years old), but his best friend has told him numerous times that he ‘doesn’t want to be his friend anymore’, again, totally normal for most 7 year olds, but the constant rejection won’t be doing my 7 year old any good. I’m wondering if he’s been struggling for a while at school, but we haven’t noticed because he’s good at masking?

This last week has all felt like a perfect storm… I have raised it with school, and they have swooped on it to be fair, they have almost formed a protective barrier over him, they are all trying to understand him, help him diffuse situations and give him extra support. They have provided a calm corner for him, given him permission to take himself away from the situation if needs be, he has now has an emotional literacy class once a week and they’ve have listened to and replicated the techniques we use at home.

It feels like we’ve gone from doing great, to a great deal of worry in a week. I feel like we are walking a tightrope at the minute, I feel like if he has many more bad experiences at school it will really effect his self esteem which will set his behaviour for the foreseeable. We are trying to follow TP techniques and still maintaining boundaries at home.

I know 7 is a tricky age, I know he’s starting to comprehend things more, I just worry that if he falls now, I might not get him back. Do you think it’s time to introduce some therapy/ proper life story work - or am I just being dramatic? How can I help him more?

OP posts:
ZoChan · 11/02/2022 18:35

I know nothing about adoption but I have two boys and around 6-7 there's a huge hormone surge and we got lots of testing behaviour. Our school has a Thrive trained teacher who did a Thrive Family course which was helpful to understand what is coming as they get older.

Sounds like you're an amazing mum for your children xx

imaginasaurus · 11/02/2022 22:16

Basically, OP, it is completely normal and to be expected that there will be ups and downs, and crises, and each and every time you (and his school from the sounds of it) help him back onto his feet, back into his window of tolerance, he will learn from it and eventually he will learn the skills needed to do it for himself. Even into adulthood, we can all slip and waiver and having skills to pick ourselves back up is essential, and you are teaching him those skills every time this happens.

And it sounds as though you are doing brilliantly.

Things you can do at home is try to make sure and certain that you understand what is going on inside him, that his inside matches his outside so to speak, in relation to his eyes drifting away he may be disassociating because of higher levels of stress and anxiety and to help him do things that really help him to relax, will really help. Going for a long walk will really help here and by the end of the walk, away from school, he may open up. A walk can help to brush off the cobwebs and get things out of the system. Someone may have said something really cutting and he hasn't been able to talk about it, or it might be something else. Do the things which you know help him to deeply relax. Explain to him that we all go through difficult things but that you will help him get through it to help him feel himself and happy. When he is calm, read him books about friendships, making and keeping friends and ask him if the children at school do the things the book suggest (as an opener) These are just ideas, you get the drift!

Jellycatspyjamas · 13/02/2022 07:28

He’s got a lot on his plate just now, and his bereavement may remind him of the other losses in his short life which could trigger a regression back to how he was in early placement because that’s how he knows to deal with loss and upset. The hitting and kicking could be a “fight/flight” response if something has triggered those old feelings, or he could be lashing out if school is tricky just now with friendships. How recent was the bereavement and how is he making sense of death at his age?

He’s also at an age where developmentally he’ll be gaining a different awareness of himself emotionally and of his place in the world, which can be tricky for children generally.

It does sound like a perfect storm, and it’s great you’ve been able to work with the school to put a safety net around him. You may find that what you’re seeing isn’t so much related to adoption per se although his background will influence how he experiences and copes with his life circumstances.

Before all this happened you describe a very well behaved child - what was his emotional expression like? How would he usually let you know he was feeling angry or sad or mischievous? I’d expect a bit of naughtiness from young children, some boundary pushing etc - how would you usually see that in him before all this?

At this point I’d be doing some watchful waiting, using the strategies you know have worked with him in the past and thinking about what’s triggering the changes you’re seeing (as you are doing). Also think about whether he’s been masking - so showing you the well behaved boy he thinks you want, and keeping his feelings under wraps, which might now be too overwhelming for him. Any child would struggle with what you’ve described, his adoption makes it more complex for you both, you may find that consistent, accepting, loving parenting might give enough stability to help him through his current crisis but if it shows no sign of abating in a few weeks it might be worth exploring play therapy for him just as a first step.

imaginosaurus · 13/02/2022 15:18

Bringing up each different event to talk about it again and again helps, each time being understanding and exploring feelings. Telling him you will help him through it each time and that it will get easier will help him feel supported.

Having staff changeovers is very stressful, doubly so as the other children will also be affected and so everyone is affecting each other.

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