Monday, October 27, 2008

The difficulties of raising a gentle soul

My little one is a very gentle soul. She is full of compassion and love. People are always telling me how happy and joyful she always seems and it is true, she is a relatively easy child. She has good sleep habits, is rather well behaved for an almost 3 year old, is sometimes very cheeky and loves to give kisses and hugs.

Now on the flip side, I have come to realise that there are some challenges with having a child so sweet and peace loving. And one of the BIG challenge manifested itself over the last couple of weeks.

About two weeks ago, when I sent her to the daycare, the strangest thing happened. She started to cry and say that she wanted to go home. Since the last year or more, she has always enjoyed going to daycare and sometimes ask about going on weekends so this was a big surprise for me. I stayed to calm her down, sitting with her through story-telling time and finally managed to get her to stop crying and agree to stay and play with her friends. Now, since that time and even slightly before that, I noticed that she is very uncomfortable around a little boy who seemed to be very agressive (pulling her hair and being rough with other kids during drop-off time). Slowly, this escalated to her constantly saying she does not want to go into the daycare center after we arrive. Now this would happen just as she is walking towards the toddlers room after entering the daycare happily. Once she sees a couple of the more "active/dynamic" kids (it's now no longer confined to just that little boy but also other kids who might seem pushy and loud), she turns and runs back to the stroller and says she wants to go home. I managed to get her to go in by carrying her inside and then having one of the caregivers take her in their arms. At that point, about a week ago, I decided to talk to the principal of the daycare about it.

We discussed how we could help Laetitia deal with handling her fears and her approach with these more "active/dynamic" kids. Now, I do not like to label children and during the conversation with the principal, I did not name names of which kids terrify Laetitia nor use negative labels on them. In fact, the exact words we used to described was "dynamic". For lack of a better word, I understand that some toddlers are more aggressive then others but the problem is, they are causing my darling stress. We agreed that on my part, we would speak to Laetitia about it at home and teach her to very loudly tell whoever is upsetting her (either by pulling her hair or disturbing her) to "STOP!", "Leave me alone!" or "I don't like you to do that!" and then tell an adult about it. And the daycare on their part will reassure her and tell her the same thing. This sounds like a good solution at the point we spoke. However, the problem seemed to have grown bigger for Laetitia.

Over the weekend, she had been sick. Since Friday evening, she has been vomiting. Initially I thought it might be a stomach flu. She vomited 6 times in 24 hrs from Friday night to Saturday night and then on Sunday, she seemed better until late evening. She was well throughout the day until about 5pm when she vomited about 5 times between 5-9pm. So, this morning I took her to the doctor. He could not find anything wrong with her. No stomach flu, no gastro etc. And yes, she did not have any diarrhea. He finally concluded that it could be just some stomach spasm. Probably something irritated her stomach and it is causing her to vomit or something psychological. So, instead of keeping her at home as I had intended, I sent her to the daycare and explained to one of the caregivers to give Laetitia small quantities of food for tea time. As we were talking, she mentioned how it might be due to Laetitia's anxiety with the situation in the daycare and it dawn on me how it could very well be it. She did mention that they can see she is visibly stressed and afraid when the boy is around. Right now, Laetitia refuses to be in the toddler section even when he is not around. Last Friday when we arrived at the daycare and she refused to go in (there was one of the louder kids around but seriously I think they are harmless), the assistant principal told me to bring her into the babies section first and then they will slowly integrate her during nap/play time. That worked fine. And today, Laetitia asked to go to the babies section even before we left the house!

So, my conclusion is that her vomiting spells over the weekend is stress related and it started with the little boy (whom I am told today is leaving the daycare after next week) being aggressive towards her and now has lead to her being generally afraid of the other kids who might seem to be more pushy. Now aside from this boy, the other kids are harmless, they are loud but just very excitable. How can I help her to get over her anxiety in dealing with these other children? It hurts me to see my little one crumbling this way. As the daycare personnel said, Laetitia is a child who is very much about love and compassion. She is always the first one to want to give another kid a hug or kiss to comfort them if they are crying. She is always running to help another kid who fell. She does not hit, push or act out in any aggressive manner. And in this case, she cannot understand why this other child is being so violent towards her and it scares her.

I wonder if the way I brought her up is making her less resilient. I always taught her to share, tell her not to hit etc. The normal things that we teach our children. We practice what we teach at home, Etienne and I treat each other with love and respect and we do the same towards our little one. Now the only thing I feel I can do is to talk to her about it, to tell her to stand up for herself, and at the same time tell her that we (her parents, God, the adults etc) are here to protect her and she does not need to be afraid but what else can I do?


Anonymous said...

hey...ive been following your blog for awhile..and this entry just makes me feel for you..I can sense that you are doing all you can to help Laetitia.

Not sure if you've heard of this before...but I found this useful:

Try a step-by-step approach and tackle one small part of his behaviour at a time. If you try to sort out all his problems at once, you'll both end up feeling frustrated and disheartened.

A worried child will react best to a small step to independence and will only be comfortable when he feels secure, so work out the first small step and then try it, with lots of praise, encouragement and some rewards.

Keep praying for her!! It is not a bad thing, whatever she is going through. Trust that she will grow out of it soon, and that her compassionate and gentle nature will grow. God bless :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cheryl for your kind words. The situation is getting a little out of hand right now in that even when the boy is not around she does not want to be with the toddlers in the daycare.
Well, the daycare inhouse psychologist is in for observation tomorrow and we'll be having a chat with her to see how we can deal with whatever been happening.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'd also suggest not to let her see how upset you are as well. I know this is probably very difficult cuz well, you're just more emotional now , but it would make her more nervous. That's what the directrice told me was happening when I sent Isabelle to school. HTH