I'm feeling at a loss on what to do w/ my 6 yr old daughter. She's always been spirited but now she's just down right angry all the time and when she's not angry, she's worried. She's afraid of growing up so much so that she will cry/scream before bed once a week about not wanting to grow up but at the same time, she says her current life is stupid. I cannot get her to say why, she just says its stupid over and over. She has freak outs and obsesses over so many things...if we drive to a new place, she's sure we'll get lost. I'm about to start her in a worry class but I'm just not sure its enough b/c its not just the worry, its the anger. I struggle to be patient a lot but when she is upset I'm always trying to calmly talk her thru it as much as I possibly can. I don't know what I'm asking for specifically here but I just need to type this out. I am not sure its a parenting thing or a psychological thing on her end and the psych dept doesn't seem to be helping me with figuring it out. There isn't any 1:1 therapy, only this worry group. And ofcourse she looks like the brightest, sweetest, happiest kid in the world at the docs.
spirited, angry, worried 6 yr old
We have some of the same issues with my son, who is now 7. He is definitely emotionally gifted (which means he feels things more intensely than the average 7 year old) so especially in first grade he would get so angry and shut down when he made mistakes or wasn't quite getting things. It was a huge problem, and anger especially is something we see a lot of when he's tired. He would get mad, then he would be mad at himself that he was mad, and finally he said one day that he just wanted to be dead and I knew we needed to try something different. I thought about therapy but I wanted to try some other things first. Here is what has worked for us:
Talk it out: Because she's picking up on stress from somewhere, chances are she is emotionally savvy enough to start picking up on relaxation strategies as well. For my son, we are now able to talk to him about his feelings and he has more control. I told him he needs to "pretend to be happy" which will then make him feel happy. Because of the emotional sensitivity, he is able to do this now with practice. In your case, talking about how you might not always know where you're going, but sometimes that is fun, because you find new places and meet new people. Or talk about how you sometimes have down days, but that can be okay as long as you find something to do that makes you happy, and focus on that. We read the book Handling Your Ups and Downs together - super old-school book, but it resonated with him. I am sure there are better ones. Also, mentally classifying him as emotionally gifted made me reassess what he could handle. I began to talk to him, emotionally, as another adult, because he could handle it (most of the time, he's still 7 afterall).
Distraction: We also put him in piano lessons which he obsessed about and became very good at, which became a great outlet when he was feeling stressed. We also have to model patience a LOT. This is really hard, especially when he's really in a mood, but if I take some deep breaths, and actually say out loud what I am doing to calm myself down, he starts to mimic this. Even when I'm upset about something I will very deliberately say "I am feeling really mad even though I shouldn't be. I am going to go read for a few minutes (or whatever) so that I can calm down." He has been picking up on these habits, especially now that he can read himself. This morning, for example, he had a 40 minute blow up because it was Monday, epic Monday meltdown. I told him he needed to work on pretending to be happy, and he said "I'm trying, but it's really hard today" and about 3 minutes later he grabbed some paper and crayons and started writing a book (about a guinea pig christmas, I was sure it would be about something angry) and within 3 minutes he had completely calmed down. This would not have happened a year ago, so it was a major deal that he was able to figure out a way to calm himself down.
Sleep: He also has a 7:30 bedtime because if he is tired, it is so much worse (seriously, he needs about 11 hours of sleep a night still).
I don't know if that helps, but it sounds like it is some of the same stuff. A kid's self-talk can be really damaging, and especially kids that are emotionally high-strung are capable of retraining their mind. I try to think of it as a blessing that it happens when they're young, so hopefully by the time the pressures of teenagerhood come they have developed the skills they need to bounce back from difficulty.
she's been like this and getting progressively worse since 2 so I don't think its an allergy perse but I do sometimes think blood sugar and definitely tiredness play a role. She is so out of tune w/ tiredness...just doesn't register/can't give in unless she's been up 13+ hrs or in a car. We do aim for about 10-11 hrs of sleep per night. When its 10, its obvious.
I did play therapy back when she was 4 and she didn't seem to improve although she LOVED going at 95 dollars a pop. I got nothing from it. If I were to look for a therapist, what should I ask to ensure its not just with her but with me/us too? Its like I want someone to come hang out and watch the show. Both hubby and I are just out of good ways to calm her down.. He's worse than I am and I am not good..sometimes I feel like I feed the fury on accident.
Pastamama, I like your take on it and will try some ideas you mentioned. She is hard to talk to when she's upset...very no no no to pretty much any idea. I have definitely felt like I need to find a place for her obsessions...like piano or a pet. I could see how that would help. We had chicks this summer and that helped but it also ended badly.
thank you all
I do also deal w/ controlling my emotions too so I know some if its the nurture/nature thing (there are many days where I have a sore spot on my tongue from biting it in attempt to control my own fury). We start her worry group tomorrow. I chatted w/ the leader of a small psych-lead support group I attend (who has a background in child psych). HE thought some things I described sounded Asperger-ish and she tested high on a paper I filled out for her on social and separation anxiety. I doubt she's into the spectrum enough but the anxiety is overlaying her ability to pick up social cues, perhaps?
she definitely doesn't read my emotional cues well...my 3 yr old "gets it" so much more than my 6 yr old. Ugh...I just am feeling like we've failed to help her and she's already sorta damaged.
well, compared to my 3 yr old, she is pretty easy going on the sensory issues, clothing wise (my son is the kid that went w/out shoes and socks for a year b/c of sensory issues) but I suppose food wise...she's extremely limited and talks about how it either needs to be dry or wet and when she wants it dry, it better be dry (rice cake). She had had sensitivities to noise and crowds in preschool and kinder but I don't see that as much now at 6/1st. I was talking to her about something yesterday and she said that when we try to hold her during a fit (like if we pick her up to move her to a bedroom...the carrying kind of hold) she says she cannot breathe and has to wiggle. Its true that is how she acts...almost Closter phobic even if I'm very careful to not hold tight around the waist/chest. There is a theory of holding your kid during a whole fit..that would NOT go well around here. She'd totally flip out....like rainman like flip out.
Eh...I am at the same time wanting to help her and sick of my difficult-to-parent kiddo. I love her so much and she is so hard on all of us.
I'm not gonna claim to know anything, but thought i would share what we are trying. Our almost 4 year old is also spirited. He (and we) have had a really rough year with weaning, the arrival of a new baby, the sad disappearance of the nap, and the stress of farming. It has not been pretty. We struggled with him for months, and I have had some pretty shameful parenting moments in the last 6 months.
The book Sleepless in America helped us see that some of his problems were related to sleep deprivation. I think spirited children are even more sensitive to this since life is so intense for them. We worked really hard to make and stick by a schedule that would get him 12 hours of sleep. it means we have to put him in bed at 6:00 sharp. This definitely helped. He still needs to nap, but vehemently refuses and I'm sick of fighting with him. If he had a nap, I think many of our issues would be easier to solve. But alas.. (The author of this book is Kurcinka, the same who wrote the Spirited Child book)
The other book we've been working with right now is Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. It has really helped us examine the way we are interacting with him and see how we can change our interactions to better meet his emotional needs. After starting this book, it became crystal clear to me that we were not helping him express and manage his emotions well. I have already tried some of the suggestions from the book, and have seen a difference in his responses. That said, I am still completely exhausted and we've had fights 2 out of the last 3 days, but I'm beginning to understand something that has puzzled and frustrated me for months.
I don't know if this pertains to your situation, but I thought I would share just in case.
best of luck