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Question
Posted by: Johanna | 2011/09/06

Children acting up

Hi Doc, please can you advise me! My husband was retrenched in Feb. Still hasn''t found a full time job, although he''s being doing lots of odd jobs to keep the wolves at bay. A lot of this work has taken him away from home during the week and home on the weekends and he''s now just got a job that''s for 38 days away from home. I''m left at home with our two boys - aged 6 and 4 (next month).
My 6 year old is very close to dad and I''m worried about him as he''s acting up. I was prepared for it from both of them as they miss their dad very much. We''ve tried to explain to them both that it''s only for a month and he''ll be back and daddy calls them every night before bedtime to say goodnight.
However, my son gets very angry and frustrated at times - especially with me. Whenever I ask him to do things i.e. brush teeth, get dressed (basic things), he takes forever to do them after 4 / 5 times of now nagging.
I''m doing star charts to monitor their good behaviours with a reward at the end of the month and mostly it works, but at times he acts out so angrily at me. Telling me I don''t love him and wish he was never born. I''ve never in my life said those things or even thought them as my children are my entire life. Naturally it hurts me when he says them.

My youngest is also acting out on his anger with me, but hitting things and having tantrums (more than usual). However, he''s still extremely loving and is always hugging me and kissing me. He too is acting up at school.

I have spoken to their teachers at pre-school who are very aware of our family situation and they''re monitoring them for me. But ultimately they are my children and I just want to love them and keep them safe from stress and pain.

How can I get them to understand that although things are tough at home right now, they''re still very much loved and that daddy is coming home again (we''re not getting separated or divorced - marriage still strong). Things will get better, I have to believe it, but it''s hard on all of us and I hate to see my children playing up at home and at school.

Any advice would be greatly welcome.

Thank you.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Admiration is indeed in order.
Kids, even the very nicest ones, are naturally skilled at sensing changed circumstances, parental tensions, and opportunities for trying to take advantage of such situations.
Have the pair of you sat down and chatted to the kids, especially the 6 year-old, about what's happening, why dad is away for periods of time, and that it is hoped this wont be a permanent situation ? We often forget both that kids can often handle much worse situations so long as (a) they roughly understand what's happening, and (b) the parents seem to be handling it well.
Could you forestall some of the nagging set-ups, by enlisting your son's help, as the Big Boy who is needed to help his mom deal with things while dad's away ? Emphasizing how much you love him and need him, and how valuable he is.
And try not to get so hurt by his comments, which are more about how frustrated and angry he feels, than actually meant comments on how he feels about you or about himself

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Johanna | 2011/09/06

Thanks everyone for your encouraging words. Husband left on Thursday already. However, we did do things as a family before he left.
I have so much respect for my husband for trying his best for us all. It''s really hard on his self esteem battling to find another job, but he hasn''t once sat on his laurels crying about it. The crying is what I do (ha, ha).

I will change the reward charts to once a week - better plan and will sit down with my elder son to discuss it all again. We did do it before, but maybe I just need to reinforce our love for the kids and that it''s only temporary.

I will try to get my son to be mommy''s big helper - the man around the house (within limits of course). I still want him to be a little boy.

Thanks once again!

Reply to Johanna
Posted by: Maria | 2011/09/06

And put a calender on the wall where they can mark off every day to see how the day gets closer when daddy comes home again. Your 6 year old should be able to understand that concept.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Maria | 2011/09/06

Post on the Parenting forum as well.

All children go through phases where they tell you that you don''t love them, they don''t love you, they aren''t your kid any more etc. etc. It hurts, but we have to try and not take it personally because it''s just their way of expressing their unhappiness.

I think you''re doing the best you can under trying circumstances. It might be better to give rewards after a week of good behaviour, a month is very long for them to wait. And just keep reassuring them... it may not feel like it but the message do go in.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Hannah | 2011/09/06

The thing about kids is that they don’ t understand until you actually really explain to them and until then they have a millions fears about what is actually going on. You need to explain the whole thing properly, as you would to an adult. You have to tell them that their father has gone away to work for a month, because if he doesn’ t you could lose your house, your car, etc. You need to reassure them, maybe they have fears that the job is just a lie and that you are perhaps separating. Tell them that their father has gone to work because he cannot find work here and he loves them so much that he has to go away in order to provide for them. Before he leaves, why don’ t you go to a nice park or amusement park, or have a movie day as a family, spoil them a bit (not only with toys, but with sharing that time) and let them know that when their father gets back there will be more of these days. That might give them something to look forward to.

Reply to Hannah
Posted by: Admirer | 2011/09/06

This will pass.......
l admire your post for many reasons, strong family unit, love for your kids and a husband doing his utmost to provide.
Hang in there.....you have my admiration.
Hope CS has some sound advice as always.

Reply to Admirer
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/09/06

Admiration is indeed in order.
Kids, even the very nicest ones, are naturally skilled at sensing changed circumstances, parental tensions, and opportunities for trying to take advantage of such situations.
Have the pair of you sat down and chatted to the kids, especially the 6 year-old, about what's happening, why dad is away for periods of time, and that it is hoped this wont be a permanent situation ? We often forget both that kids can often handle much worse situations so long as (a) they roughly understand what's happening, and (b) the parents seem to be handling it well.
Could you forestall some of the nagging set-ups, by enlisting your son's help, as the Big Boy who is needed to help his mom deal with things while dad's away ? Emphasizing how much you love him and need him, and how valuable he is.
And try not to get so hurt by his comments, which are more about how frustrated and angry he feels, than actually meant comments on how he feels about you or about himself

Reply to cybershrink

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