September 27, 2012 2 Comments
I had a nephew living with me for a while quite a few years back. He was struggling, his family was struggling and nothing seemed to work for him. He had been a challenge since the day he was born. He was highly intelligent (almost too much so) and his parents were ill-equipped to deal with his behaviour. His parents are well off and high up in the social circle of things so having a child with “issues” was not exactly okay. He went from one doctor to the next trying to find a diagnosis to explain his behaviour. The parents used to book their vacations around when I was able to come and stay with the kids because they couldn’t find someone who could handle him.
I remember one of the first times I stayed with the kids for a week; I came down and they were quite young. None of them understood the whole “rules” idea of making sure to tell a parent where you are or what your plans were or where you were going. That really threw them when I insisted they do that. What was even more shocking for them was the fact that I would give them a time-out for their misbehaviour. This particular nephew was a challenging boy but the thing with kids is that you have to be able to out-last them sometimes. The whole notion of a time-out was very new to them and I had to literally stand beside the “time-out chair” the first few times and keep plopping his little bottom back on the chair and resetting the time until he did his time out.
The rest of the week was a breeze after that first 24 hours.
Once this challenging boy hit adolescence, life was very much out of control. Issues at home, issues at school, self-medication in the form of drugs and alcohol. There were some definite mental health issues that were emerging but there were also some big family issues as well that everyone was trying to pretend and avoid. This young man was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, OCD (which he definitely had) Tourettes and bi-polar disorder. He had facial tics that he couldn’t control.
Things came to a head and his parents asked if I would take him for a month. I said sure, he could come stay but he would have to spend some time volunteering and maybe working part-time and that it wouldn’t be just a holiday. I figured if things were really that bad, he could probably use the break.
We put together a plan that allowed him to visit his parents on the weekends and spend some time doing stuff during the day (volunteering at the animal therapy farm, working with a personal trainer to start to get into exercise). He had refused his medications at this point.
He was fine. He definitely had attention issues and I needed to be on him because he was used to pushing until he got his way but for the most part, he was pretty fine. He wasn’t on his meds at all and there were some things he should probably be on meds for but for the most part, the focus was to help him learn to cope.
I found out after the fact that his parents were sending him to my place as a punishment for being bad. Can you imagine. Go live in the country with your poor cousin where you don’t have all the privileges of the extremely rich and see how bad you’ve got it…
They asked me to keep him and were willing to pay me a large lump sum of money to do just that.
I said no.
The reason I said no? Because he didn’t want to stay with me forever. He wanted to be with his family. Also, by keeping him here with me, they could forever hold onto the fact that he was just a “bad” kid and avoid all the emotional abuse that was going on in the home. Kids are kind of like barometers to what is going on in the family sometimes. The more distressed their behaviour, the more likely the entire family unit is a mess – and it’s not necessarily because of the kid. The kids become the focus and are seen as the problem but most of the time, they’re simply reacting to their environment.
This guy did go off the rails for a while and ended up in rehab. He is functional now but definitely has some problems he still needs to sort through. Him and his mom are pretty good with each other and that’s at least a start.