How to help a hurting child

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Kit99

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How to help a hurting child
« on: March 18, 2017, 12:05:08 PM »
Hi OOTF friends,

I'm reaching out for guidance and support regarding my oldest son (5 years) who continues to struggle with the experience we've gone through with his father, my now exH.  My exH did the idealize/devalue cycle with our young children as well as me. My oldest was most impacted because he remembers everything (he was 4 when I left his dad). He's incredibly gifted intellectually and that makes it perhaps even more difficult for him to understand the situation. I've taken him to a child psychologist several times a month for over a year now and while his behavior has gotten SO much better (he was acting out  very badly before), he continues to struggle with his inner dialogue - he gets better for long stretches of time then digresses.

He says, "I'm so stupid. I'm nothing. I'm rotten. I don't like myself. I hate myself. I'm going to kill myself. I'm going to throw myself out of this house. I don't belong on this earth. I'm a bad boy." Etc etc. mind you, he heard his father say all of these things (with the exception of calling him dumb and saying he doesn't belong in this earth).  I tell my son that no one should talk like that. I say how loved and special he is and that God made only one person like him. I tell him that no one is perfect - not even me!!!- and that's totally okay! I just keep trying to be a positive reinforcement but I feel like it's not working. Do you have any other ideas?

This morning he asked me, "Do you remember the word 'Fock it?' Daddy doesn't say that to me anymore. If he says that word again I'll call HIM a 'fock it'." He didn't pronounce the swear word exactly but I just told him that it's an inappropriate word and adults shouldn't be using that language around their children. Then I took a deep breath and told myself I made the right choice in leaving my exH, despite all of the fall out.  This experience hurt my oldest perhaps as much as it hurt me. We are both trying to cope with the cognitive dissonance that loving a PD person involves.

Thanks for listening and providing your thoughts.  I just needed to vent to people who will understand this heartache.

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sonto92

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2017, 01:02:55 PM »
Kit99 - I feel your pain - that is the hardest thing to deal with - this purposeful manipulating and destruction of a healthy inner dialogue.  An article from the Guardian came up on my Facebook feed today about "Gaslighting".  It is so insidious and I truly believe that it is one of the most destructive forms of abuse out there that gets almost little or no attention (the only reason it is getting much press right now is because it has been an "election issue"  :-X).  I don't think that this is just isolated to young kids either.  My oldest son is 17 and he is having a helluva time right now with this barrage of mixed messages, to the point where I'm not sure if I can have any dialogue with him that would be healthy and constructive.  There has been so much crazy stuff that has gone on over at BPDx's that has happened and been documented by everyone that needs to know - our parenting consultant, the family therapist, the police department, the schools, etc.  Still - he insists that I am a part of the problem and that "if his mom and I would just act as adults we wouldn't have any problems".  Hang in there - my son tee'd off on me last night and then decided to send me a text to have lunch with him at work today.  The big difference is that I work really hard to act rather than react and I'm hoping this will pay off in the long run

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Whiteheron

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2017, 04:01:50 PM »
Kit, I have heard some of those exact same words and phrases from DS13 (he's very intelligent and articulate). I hate hearing these things. I hate that he feels this way. We are not yet out of the house - as much as stbx wants me out, he keeps on throwing up roadblocks...unless I do what he wants (ain't gonna happen).

I have DS in therapy once a week. During the initial consult I had with the therapist, she said it sounded like my stbx had NPD. I was so relieved. She seems to understand me and seems to have a good grasp of our situation and what DS is going through. The therapy has been invaluable. When we inevitably miss a week, I can really tell DS is struggling. He still says these things to me, but not as frequently. I'm hoping (fingers crossed!!!) that once I can get DS out of this toxic house and into a peaceful calm, supportive one (at least part of the time), he will progress even more. stbx never spoke like this, so these thoughts and words are coming straight from DS and are his way of describing the despair, hopelessness and frustration he finds himself dealing with on a daily basis. It kills me to know I can't get him out of this house yet.

I would suggest keeping your son in therapy. No harm in therapist shopping if you're not seeing any improvement. Your DS is young, I also think once he begins to find his independence (around 6-7-8) he may no longer repeat what his dad says/does. In our case, once my youngest hit about 7, stbx had a real hard time with her asserting her independence and we saw a slew of new PD behaviors as he tried to regain the control he used to have over her.

It could also be that your DS sees/has seen his dad getting attention for saying these things, so he's trying the same thing? Hard to say exactly.

Hang in there. I know it's not easy.
:hug:
You can't destroy me if I don't care.

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Crayola13

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2017, 09:39:30 PM »
Make sure your son is around other kids doing fun things. Don't tell him he's not allowed to tell anyone what he's going through. If I had been allowed to do those two things, life would have been easier. My dad was a mean drunk, and I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. So, I had no one to talk to when I felt overwhelmed. Also, I wasn't allowed to spend time with other kids outside of school or participate in age-appropriate activities, which made life very hard for me. It's good that your son is in counseling. My dad wouldn't allow me to go. By the time I was twenty-one, things got so bad that I had to go to counseling and take meds. About five years too late. By starting your son in counseling at an early age, maybe he won't develop the anxiety disorders like I did.

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Poised

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 07:59:21 PM »
Hi, Kit

Shortly before I moved out, DS (who was 5 at the time) gave me a tearful list of words he never wanted to hear again - the F-bomb was one, along with derogatory terms for women beginning with a B and a C, plus die, dead, and kill.

DS has been in therapy for close to a year, primarily for anxiety, but he has made some statements regarding his sense of self-worth. He has been doing much, much better, and his therapist no longer believes regular sessions are needed. Here is what helped him, which I pass along as things to consider for your own little boy:

1) Martial arts or swimming lessons. My DS hated karate, but loves swimming. It's relaxing and it's really clicked for him in the last year, which is very typical for 5-6 year olds, but really fosters a sense of achievement.
2) Acting as a brother. My DS really enjoys reading to his younger sister. Again, there's a sense of achievement in doing something nice for her that she can't do for herself.
3) Structure and predictability. Same breakfast, same TV show, same timing every day he's with me.
4) At my house, we use a token/reward system to reinforce good behavior.
5) As silly as it sounds, we have a kids' meditation book that we read every night he is with me. He requests it! It has simple, positive messages - "I am safe," "I am happy," "I am special," etc. As I'm not sure about the protocol for mentioning a specific title/author, you can PM me if you want that information.

I hope things continue to get better for your little boy - I am confident they will!

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argh

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 09:01:39 PM »
Hi, Kit

Shortly before I moved out, DS (who was 5 at the time) gave me a tearful list of words he never wanted to hear again - the F-bomb was one, along with derogatory terms for women beginning with a B and a C, plus die, dead, and kill.

DS has been in therapy for close to a year, primarily for anxiety, but he has made some statements regarding his sense of self-worth. He has been doing much, much better, and his therapist no longer believes regular sessions are needed. Here is what helped him, which I pass along as things to consider for your own little boy:

1) Martial arts or swimming lessons. My DS hated karate, but loves swimming. It's relaxing and it's really clicked for him in the last year, which is very typical for 5-6 year olds, but really fosters a sense of achievement.
2) Acting as a brother. My DS really enjoys reading to his younger sister. Again, there's a sense of achievement in doing something nice for her that she can't do for herself.
3) Structure and predictability. Same breakfast, same TV show, same timing every day he's with me.
4) At my house, we use a token/reward system to reinforce good behavior.
5) As silly as it sounds, we have a kids' meditation book that we read every night he is with me. He requests it! It has simple, positive messages - "I am safe," "I am happy," "I am special," etc. As I'm not sure about the protocol for mentioning a specific title/author, you can PM me if you want that information.

I hope things continue to get better for your little boy - I am confident they will!

Hi Poise

I'm pretty sure it's okay to suggest book titles- but if you don't want to do that do you mind pm img me the title? I would have pmd you but couldn't work out how to do that!!

I would love this meditation book for my nieces thanks!!

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Poised

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2017, 08:05:05 AM »
Sure - the author is Marneta Viegas. She's written at least a couple of meditation books for children. The one we have is Relax Kids: Aladdin's Magic Carpet: And other Fairy Tale Meditations for Princesses and Superheroes.

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kazzak

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2017, 11:27:37 AM »
Thanks for sharing that Poised. There aren't restrictions on sharing books, there is a forum category where members can make suggestions too. It sounds like you are on a good track with your little one. I think a big part is when you said "Structure and predictability. Same breakfast, same TV show, same timing every day he's with me.". Children (and adults) do best when knowing what to expect. With a PD the unpredictable is too often the norm. It's important for my child to know what to expect, even if a little thing like me going to the bathroom or another part of the house. My situation may be extreme, but by letting my child know what to expect they in turn are grounded. I've also found sports/activities helpful. My son gets normalcy around a peer group while gaining mastery of something new that he can be proud of. Throw in a good open relationship with normal emotional responses, meditation and all the self care techniques that you can build upon ... and you are off to a good start! Perfection shouldn't be the goal. We all learn from mistakes and those expectations are impossible for anyone to meet.

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Kit99

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2017, 03:59:48 PM »
Thank you all for sharing your experiences and things that have worked best for your children. I definitely plan to check out the book that Poised suggested!

I have my son involved in therapy, sports and activities with other kids and he's very happy most of the time. I know that this trauma will stay with him for a long time and it's always under the surface even when he's happy. It just concerns me that he's saying these horrible things about himself when I try so very hard to be a positive and loving reinforcement for him.

He knows that those are bad things to say and he didn't like it when his dad said them so I don't understand why he repeats them. He told me this morning, "I'm going to kill myself. Then you'll only have (sibling) and you'll forget all about me." This was completely random and the only thing I did prior was say he couldn't watch a cartoon because he wasn't using nice words with himself. It broke my heart into a million pieces! I just looked at him at his level and told him again how much I love him, God loves him and that nothing can ever change that. I told him we all make mistakes and that doesn't make us "bad." But rather it's an opportunity to learn and grow.

I'm just so incredibly angry at the damage my exH has caused him. I want to fix this and I don't know how!!!

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kazzak

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2017, 04:10:42 PM »
Such strong words for a five year old. I have DS6, who's been through a lot too. But it went away and he's mostly fine. I wonder (because there isn't a magic bullet) if he thinks "it" is his fault. I know that can be a major pitfall with kids/divorce/pd. But by no means do I know anyone's else's situation to say. I'd keep advocating for more help. What's the T say? What's the pediatrician say? Keep asking until you find help. My son started getting a lot better after a few months of attachment therapy. He's done a year with OT. He's done play therapy. There was no one answer, but often the right expert can lead the way and coach a parent. They are out there, and you have to keep asking and advocating until you find the help needed to parent and assist your child's development.

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Hazey

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2017, 10:11:23 PM »
Hi Kit,

I have some thoughts for you that might help.

Context: I have teenagers with a BPD parent (i'm the step parent) -- so I've read books and also get a lot of advice from my therapist.

Here's what I've learned and what I'm trying to implement with my stepkids:

1) Children are supposed to learn to deal with all sorts of emotions -- and learn appropriate emotions -- from their parents. This learning starts when they are infants and seeing parents' body language / tone etc. When there's a BPD parent, this human development process gets interrupted/distorted. So it's important to try to pick up where it was left off / re-create it. Meaning, model and echo all kinds of appropriate emotions and emotional responses to stimuli. Not just joy and happiness, but also sadness, anger etc. (Key word: appropriate). By model, I mean let kids see us in various states (within reason of course), appropriately handling our emotions. And by "echo" i mean help our kids learn to name their emotions by, well, naming the emotions for them (in a good way. I'll give examples in a second).

2) We got the book "How to Talk to Kids So Kids Will Listen, and How to Listen to Kids So Kids Will Talk." The premise of the book is that we all learn to deny the emotions of others, especially kids, and we need to do the opposite.

For example (straight outta the book, from memory) - a little kid with a new sibling might say: "I HATE MY BROTHER!" And most of us would respond by saying, "You don't hate your brother! You love your brother!" ... When what might be a better response and might help the kid process the complicated emotions he is feeling, would be something more like: "Oh, you sound angry!" or trying to acknowledge that they're actually upset because they now have to share their parent's attention: "I be you miss the days when it was just the two of us!" Then the kid can say, "yeah! and..." (and maybe even participate in a little fantasy of it being just the two of us again... thereby processing the emotion and moving on).

So my thinking is that in the example you give where he says he is dumb / doesn't belong on the planet... Maybe you should try to name his emotion for him? (as I'm writing this, I realize maybe you already tried this?) ... But just in case you haven't! Maybe say something where you're trying to guess where this feeling is actually coming from... whatever that might be: "Sounds like you're feeling sad that daddy wasn't able to make it to your t-ball game?" ... or "Sounds like you had a tough day with spelling in school?" ... just trying to name the emotion/ where it's come from to get him talking more, more in touch with where those feelings might be coming from (eventually) and eventually able to name and manage his own emotions.

Then you can go with, "boy, if you weren't on this planet, that would be crazy! first of all, I would be so sad!" ... and participate in that fantasy till it's processed and gone.

Is that at all helpful? It's stuff I've been reading, talking about, implementing... Only slightly differently for teenagers. Only slightly! Our kids texted a couple nights ago really really upset with their BPD m. We went into that mode... and they got it off their chests. I said "Wow you two sound really mad!" ... and they said "Yeah!" and expanded on it. Their dad said, "I bet you had things you were hoping to do today" .. and they said "yeah!" and expanded. etc. They were able to name / expand on /process their emotions, and it seemed to work and help them manage them.

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Kit99

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Re: How to help a hurting child
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2017, 06:16:24 PM »
Kazzak- it's reassuring to hear that your son has worked his way through these issues. I hope that will continued therapy and support my son will also overcome this hurt.

Jorogu- thank you for sharing that book title and examples of the approach. I'm going to try it out tonight! I've tried to ask him how he's feeling when he says those things but perhaps making it more of a directed statement or observation would be more effective.