Author Topic: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?  (Read 1044 times)

MaybeBabyMustache

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Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« on: October 17, 2018, 02:22:47 PM »
Background: I have a very close relationship with my sister (consider her one of my two best friends). We get along extremely well, and are alike in many regards, perhaps with the exception of parenting. We both have two boys, of similar age.

My sister has regularly asked for advice on her 13 year old son. . . he is obese, has limited impulse control, struggles with social encounters, has no friends, gets very frustrated/angry over small issues, is very defensive, and always feels like the world is against him. (I observe this, but this matches the observation of everyone in my family, including my sister.) His only "activity" is gaming, and he games (when I'm around, don't know what he's like on a standard day) for 4-6 hours/day.

On the plus side, he's very smart, and when engaged, has a very kind heart for those he cares about.

My sister is very worried, and had hoped this was a phase that would work itself out. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert on child rearing or a therapist, but feel the challenges need professional help. When she's asked for  my help in the past, it's been framed as a question like, "How do you handle it when your child doesn't want to stop doing an activity?" Or, do you think meditation would help (her child) deal with his emotions better? It's never a broad, open ended question about what I would do in her situation. She expressed her concern again last weekend, and tossed out a couple of ideas for my input. (Meditation, friend related stuff, etc).

I love my sister, and want the best for her & my nephew. However, I most definitely do not want to offend or over step, or hurt our relationship. I'm wondering if I should even remotely consider suggesting a therapist, or discussing with his pediatrician. If you think this is appropriate, is there wording that you would use/want used that would be least likely to offend?

CindyBS

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2018, 03:39:22 PM »
As a mom to a teen very high on the Autism Spectrum (Asperger's Syndrome, basically) - one thing our pediatrician told us when we were thinking of getting him evaluated (at age 12) is that these kids are often in tune with their parents in a way that they aren't in the outside world.  Meaning, he could be much better in her presence than where he really is.  Also, when it is your oldest child, it is hard to know what is normal.  How not normal is your child?  Is that puberty moodiness or a problem? 

I agree some sort of assessment or evaluation sounds like it is in order. 

When she asks a question, you can answer "Honestly, I think this xx's behavior has gotten to the point that you should seriously consider getting an evaluation.  I'm getting worried about him."   If she is reaching out, she must want some input.   The most important thing is to not act like having a mental illness or a neurodevelopmental disorder is shameful or something to be embarrassed about.  Would you hesitate this much if you noticed a weird rash on his arm?  Probably not. 

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2018, 03:47:25 PM »
As a mom to a teen very high on the Autism Spectrum (Asperger's Syndrome, basically) - one thing our pediatrician told us when we were thinking of getting him evaluated (at age 12) is that these kids are often in tune with their parents in a way that they aren't in the outside world.  Meaning, he could be much better in her presence than where he really is.  Also, when it is your oldest child, it is hard to know what is normal.  How not normal is your child?  Is that puberty moodiness or a problem? 

I agree some sort of assessment or evaluation sounds like it is in order. 

When she asks a question, you can answer "Honestly, I think this xx's behavior has gotten to the point that you should seriously consider getting an evaluation.  I'm getting worried about him."   If she is reaching out, she must want some input.   The most important thing is to not act like having a mental illness or a neurodevelopmental disorder is shameful or something to be embarrassed about.  Would you hesitate this much if you noticed a weird rash on his arm?  Probably not.

Thanks, @CindyBS . Appreciate the input. This is her youngest child, just as reference, and her older child is quite different, which I do think draws a stark comparison in her mind. She's also parenting largely alone (ex husband is a good dad, but not living in the state), and just doesn't know how/what to do, and is feeling overwhelmed.

I'll be sure to position my input judgment free, and not something that anyone should be embarrassed about. I would definitely flag if I saw other health issues that were going unnoticed. His obesity is quite noticeable, but I also know that she's gotten input & feedback from a pediatrician, so I trust that's as in hand as it can be without further professional input.

Laura33

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2018, 03:55:09 PM »
I think you're right to tread carefully -- especially since she isn't asking you "what should I do," she's asking for your approval of options she has already chosen, which suggests that she is using you to vent more than she is actually looking for real feedback.  But I do also think you need to speak up, because you love your nephew, and because the very things that she is asking you about suggest that she is on the wrong track in dealing with him.*

One way that might work is to ask questions that downplay your own experience, so it is clear that you are not suggesting you know better than her.  E.g., Sister: "I don't know, I'm so frustrated, I'm thinking of trying X, what do you think about X?"  You:  "Geez, I don't know, that's above my pay grade -- have you asked his pediatrician about it?"  Or "Kids are changing so much at his age, and I just don't have enough experience to know what works best -- is there a therapist you know who works with teens who might be able to tell you if X works at that age?"  Etc.  And then if she gets defensive, you can back off with a "hey, you're the mom, you know him best -- what do you think?"  I wouldn't expect her to jump at it, but if you make that your go-to response, you are at least planting the seed.

*Yes, meditation is a great idea.  But it is not something a parent can impose on an obstreperous 13-year-old.  And it comes after finding ways to detach some from the games and adding some outdoor time and healthier habits into the mix.  She is looking for a Band-Aid when the problem is the whole dynamic between her and her son.

[I just saw the note that this is her youngest, and that makes total sense.  When you have been through it already, you tend to think you have this parenting stuff down, so when one kid is fundamentally different than the others, it can be hard to realize that you need to adjust your own approach, because what worked for them is not working for him.  This is where a therapist can be so helpful in providing that objective opinion that, no, this isn't normal, and then making some practical suggestions to change the dynamic.]

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2018, 04:09:32 PM »
@Laura33 - perfect. The wording you suggest is just the right balance between giving input without it coming off as though I'm staging an intervention over her parenting skills.

And yes, her older child is a totally different beast - a little sassy as a 16 year old boy is, but very socially gifted and understand how to read people, which serves him well in everything. He's the first of 4 boys in all very close order between the two of us. It's so fascinating to see the difference between the four. What a wild adventure parenting is!

Laura33

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2018, 06:55:42 AM »
@Laura33 - perfect. The wording you suggest is just the right balance between giving input without it coming off as though I'm staging an intervention over her parenting skills.

And yes, her older child is a totally different beast - a little sassy as a 16 year old boy is, but very socially gifted and understand how to read people, which serves him well in everything.

Very cool.  But that last bit struck me: if older brother is the perfect golden child with tons of friends, I guarantee the younger feels worthless and stupid and unwanted (with mine, the younger is the golden child, so I have dealt with this for, oh, 12 years).  And especially when his behavior is problematic, that means that his interactions with his parents are always about what he is doing wrong, which just reinforces his worthlessness.  He needs someone to catch him doing something right, someone who isn’t trying to “fix” him, someone who thinks he is a great kid just the way he is.  Since you are not caught up in his parenting dynamic, you are the perfect person to do that. 

Now, I’m not saying this is easy.  But the reality is that the more unlovable he is, the more he needs to be loved.  Of course, at that age, he is gong to shy away from anything overt.  But if you can bond with him over something (like leaning his video games, or even just asking if you can watch him play and complimenting him when he does something cool, or whatever), that can help provide the little kick of “someone is interested in ME” that every kid needs.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2018, 11:05:17 AM »
My youngest kid is ... quirky.  Even his teachers describe him that way.

He spent a week with my sister and my mom this summer, and they staged a respectful intervention when he got back home.  "We're a little concerned about your S and his social skills.  Even <nephew of a similar age> remarked that S seems to be a few years behind socially.  Have you considered that he might be on the spectrum and need intervention?"

I actually had considered that, and when I told them that I'd done some research and it didn't match what I see in S, they suggested I ask the pediatrician and S's therapist.  I did...and although they don't think S is on the spectrum either, when I brought up more of the problematic behaviors they recommended I get him tested for anxiety.  It's something I never would have thought of on my own, but now we have an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Your sister seems to genuinely want to help  her son, and hopefully she will be open to your gentle push.  Just don't apologize over and over and over afterwards for daring to think your nephew might need help - my mom did that and it annoyed me.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2018, 11:26:17 AM »
thanks for the input, @formerlydivorcedmom . I appreciate it, and would also like to commend you on handling your own situation so maturely. I know how hard it is to get opinions on our kids, and think you did a great job listening, challenging & working with the professionals to understand.

@Laura33 - agree. I'm not local (there in Washington, I'm in California), but my parents make an incredibly big time investment in both local grand kids, particularly the one I've referenced in this thread. Both of my parents were in education & are aware of the challenges. They have a somewhat more stressed relationship with my sister than I do, so observe the same things/have similar concerns, but do not want to be the one to voice this. They do invest greatly, make him feel loved, and really try to build him up as much as possible. I feel that . . . I try, but have some guilt that I do get frustrated. There is often friction between my nephew & my own kids, and it's hard to be objective. I do love him, want the best for him, & would do pretty much anything to help set him on the road to a happy & successful life. Luckily, I know gaming (it's my work space), so do try & engage him in conversation & chat about upcoming events, developers, etc. It helps somewhat.

TrMama

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2018, 11:55:19 AM »
You've gotten some great advice already.

I also have a quirky kid and while no one staged an intervention and I was the one who pursued testing/treatment/etc it was still really, really hard to hear the final diagnoses. Even when the info was delivered respectfully from the pros, learning your kid is going to have extra life-long challenges is just sucky. There's no way around that. Every parent who goes through this needs to grieve for the imaginary perfect, easy future their family isn't going to have. That takes time and she'll need some extra understanding in the meantime.

So, while I agree it's a tricky conversation to have and she may not take it well, don't take her reaction personally. It will probably take her a while to come around to the idea that professional help is needed.

lhamo

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2018, 12:24:01 PM »
What kind of gaming does he do?  We were concerned about the level of our DS's engagement in gaming at one point, but he learned to control it (mostly) and it has actually ended up being positive for him in a social sense, too, because he focuses on a team-based game (CS Go).  He joined a local team at his university, but that kind of fell apart and he ended up on a team with a bunch of guys up at UBC instead.  We have now made several trips up there so that he could join them for in-person tournaments and such.

So maybe a nudge in the direction of team gaming, or encouragement to actually meet people in person who enjoy the same games as he does.  Not everybody is going to necessarily "click" with the people who are at their school, but if you can get them engaging socially in other ways that can help (one of my best friends in middle/high school was someone I met during a one-week arts camp in 7th grade who lived 30 minutes away and was in a different school district -- and we are still friends today!)

tooqk4u22

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2018, 08:20:17 AM »
A lot of good thoughts so far and just keep in mind that kids/siblings can be 180° different.  I three and they are all different, so I wouldn't even begin to be able to use one as a benchmark for normal other than they are all normal in their own way.

I will say that gaming is addictive and mood/psychology altering - my oldest is very susceptible to the this, the other two not so much.  But if the older one games too much, or is not outside and active enough, he absolutely becomes moody, short fused, etc.

But gaming nowadays is a social thing too so its a balance for sure.  I would trim back the gaming though

mm1970

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2018, 01:48:00 PM »
Quote
My sister has regularly asked for advice on her 13 year old son. . . he is obese, has limited impulse control, struggles with social encounters, has no friends, gets very frustrated/angry over small issues, is very defensive, and always feels like the world is against him. (I observe this, but this matches the observation of everyone in my family, including my sister.) His only "activity" is gaming, and he games (when I'm around, don't know what he's like on a standard day) for 4-6 hours/day.

A few thoughts, in random order (you already got good advice from Laura33 and others)

- This is a tough age.  My older ds is 12 and he's... prickly.  This is the golden child. Super smart, people-pleaser, loves his family, very snuggly from the get-go, funny, sweet.  And he's been replaced with this dramatic, pimply, big-footed pre-teen.  So. Much. Drama. 

- The video games.  I hate the video games.  He never wants to be off them.  And he's on them a LOT.  We do limit them, and school time naturally limits them.  But he plays Fortnite, which is a "group" game.  And that has been great.  Because he gets to play with his friends.  He has a great friend who is kind of shy and it's REALLY hard to get them together due to their personality types.  But they play together on the video game.  I think there is something to be said for having social interactions, even if it's on a game.

- The puberty emotions are strong.

- I'm also trying to get my kid involved in something active.  He was in baseball and gave it up.  I can't *force* him to join track or cross country in junior high.  He does have daily PE and he does walk home from school a couple of times a week. We are trying to have him go on weekly bike rides with my spouse (temporarily put on hold due to traveling husband and round 2 of head lice).  We are trying to get him into a sport like volleyball, which we both used to play a lot.  I think if a kid isn't "into" something, you just have to drag them.  Hence the husband and the biking.  I was aiming for hiking.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Wade in with advice, or stay out of it?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2018, 02:51:18 PM »
Thanks for all of the great advice. I also have a 12 year old, and am oh so familiar with the quirky moodiness combined with totally normal behavior, as well as the Fortnite addiction. ;-) We have lots of rules in our house about when you can have/earn electronics, strict limits, and physical exercise is a bit part of our lives as well.

Today my sister asked for input on how we handle homework, missing assignments, & just generally not putting effort in at homework. I suggested our policy around "earning" electronics, vs having it being a given.

Appreciate all of the input, and will look for a good opportunity to have a broader chat about potentially talking to her pediatrician & seeing what she/he recommends.