Search This Blog

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Children in Distress - Depressed and Anxious: Are These Children Psychologically and Emotionally Damaged?

Originally published in June of 2009, I realized after somebody commented on a blog I wrote about this topic, that the original link no longer existed. So I thought I would re-post it here:

What you are about to read are my observations concerning a few of the children who were in my daycare over the past 45 years. While most of the children were polite, well behaved, pleasant, and had what I would term normal curiosities (kids being kids), behaviors I witnessed from some of the other children required psychological help far beyond anything I could offer. See if you agree.

One more thing: keep in mind as you read the following sections that these behaviors did not continue for hours at a time. In the midst of the chaos were quiet times, walking, book reading, playing, eating, snacking, learning, and lots of physical activities, along with lots of affection and fun - at least until Kara and Izzie came along (read on~all names have been changed).

Andrea appeared at my door after her father read my ad in the local newspaper. He immediately mentioned that his 3-year-old daughter had some "issues" brought about by her mother, who was completely to blame for everything wrong with his child. He wanted me to observe her as I cared for her.
The moment he left, she grabbed a toy out of the hands of one of my children. At the time, my three youngest children ranged in age from 3 to 6. I told Andrea that it wasn't polite to take a toy out of somebody's hand without asking.
I gently but firmly removed the toy from her hand and placed it back in the hand of my daughter. Andrea grabbed it again, and again I explained that it wasn't nice to take things out of somebody's hand. Hoping to distract her from the toy that held her attention, I showed her all of the other toys and games around my home.
She was relentless, however, and grabbed the toy from my daughter once more. When I said again - with conviction - "NO!" she ran into the bedroom, and with one sweep of her arm knocked books, a lamp, and other items from the top of the dresser as she screamed and screamed.
Not knowing how to handle the situation, I picked her up and placed her on my lap. My children were dumbstruck by this outburst and stood completely still as I rocked this child whose convulsive sobs eventually calmed to a whimper.
After she calmed down completely and I set her down to play, the whole event played out, over and over, until finally the dad returned. "So how was she?" he asked. When I explained what happened, he said, "I knew it. I want you to go to court with me and tell the judge how badly she behaved. I want my ex-wife to pay for this."
Rusty's mother, a woman who also answered my newspaper ad, showed up to interview me, minus Rusty, despite my insistence that she bring him with her to the interview. I explained to her that I would prefer her child to meet me first rather be dropped off with a complete stranger. "Trust me," she said. "He'll be fine."
Against my better judgment, I allowed Rusty to come to my house without first having met him. When his mother opened my door, my house became a giant pinball machine. Her son was the ball.
The door was the lever that, when pulled open by the mother, slammed against Rusty and propelled him into the house, where he bounced first on one wall, then on another, crashing into furniture and bumping into everything and anything in his way - as his mother made a quick exit to her car. This behavior continued - until he discovered the television set, which he figured out how to turn on.
Even at the age of 3, this child completely immersed himself in whatever program was on. Because it was the only thing that seemed to calm him down, I allowed him to watch it. The television took him into another world where he stood entranced, calmly swaying side to side and looking as if he were one with the machine.
When it was time to leave, though, I witnessed a behavior I had never encountered and have never seen since. He was intently watching the credits roll by. Nothing else appeared on the screen - only the credits.
"Come on, Rusty," I told him, "it's time to get the other kids." His gentle swaying and complete concentration on the credits told me he was not paying attention to me.
When nothing I said, when even touching his shoulder could not break his concentration, I turned off the TV, at which time he exploded with screams, pausing only long enough to scream some more. No matter how loudly I called his name in my attempt to extricate him from wherever he was - where one cacophonous scream followed another in quick succession - I failed to grab his attention and stop him from his screaming frenzy. As I got down to eye level with him, which I hoped would force him to look at me, I realized he was looking through me. And he was still screaming.
Lost in his screams, with me kneeling before him, I noticed his gaze was somewhere beyond the room. I finally shook his shoulders to "snap him out of it" and his focus returned.
When Blaine came to my daycare it was because he wasn't getting along with one of the other children in his previous daycare. He was a moody child whose mother would sneer when she dropped him off during one of those rare occasions when he was awake, "Good luck! He's in another one of his moods."
Like Rusty, Blaine loved television, and he loved rituals. Most days Mom carried her giant 3-year-old from the car, down the driveway, and up the steps to place his still-sleeping body on the couch so he could continue sleeping. She often didn't know what time he went to bed the night before, though she guessed it to be sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. He sometimes arrived as early as 6:30 in the morning. When he awoke, he HAD to watch television before he did anything else or he became extremely agitated.
During his first meal, as he sat at the table with the other children, Blaine accidentally dropped some food on the floor. He immediately collapsed in fear, apologizing over and over. Crying uncontrollably, shaking with fear, he looked as if he thought I was going to beat him.
"It's OK, Blaine. I can clean it up," I told him as I attempted to assure him that everything really was OK. Unsatisfied and still fearful of what, I didn't know, he continued to sob until I cleaned up the mess and told him repeatedly that it was OK. When I related the episode to his mother, she told me that his father slammed his fist into the table if even a crumb hit the floor. Even though they were now divorced, the father's devastating cruelty still affected his son profoundly.
Blaine did not get along with the babies in my care. He would grab objects they were holding and pull them away which caused the babies to cry. No matter how many times I told him that it was OK for the babies to play with the items, Blaine insisted it was wrong, and he continued to grab toys away from them, sometimes hiding from me to do so.
He had his own ideas about the way things should run in my daycare and he told me in no uncertain terms how wrong my methods were. I watched him for over a year, and he continued to tell me what to do, which words the other children and I were allowed to say, "gosh," for instance, was unacceptable, and on and on, always attempting to institute his own rules. Because we didn't abide by his rules, he would sulk, throw himself on the couch, and maintain his "crabby" stance for several minutes. He also suffered from night terrors (which might explain his refusal to fall asleep at night).
Blaine's abnormal behavior wasn't directed only toward the babies, though. When 3 year old Alice suggested playing a game, Blaine forced his face directly in front of hers, touching his nose to hers, and screamed at her, "YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!" leaving Alice engulfed in tears. That scene played out innumerable times, with me comforting Alice and reprimanding Blaine by telling him repeatedly that just because somebody wants to suggest a game doesn't mean that person is trying to boss him around.
Barker and Shar
Of all the troubled children in my care, these two were probably the best of the most troubled. I bring up this family, though, because of the future stepmother's reaction to being told about her future stepchildren's behaviors.
Barker, 8, and Shar, 4, were brother and sister. Their "real" mom was a terrible influence, a point the future stepmom frequently mentioned to make sure I understood how bad a mother she was, and was included in their lives as little as possible.
Barker was highly excitable and would hop up and down most of the day. He looked as if he had springs under his feet. Whether he was telling a story, watching a movie, waiting for his turn to play a game, or explaining why he just did something, he hopped, making it extremely difficult to maintain eye contact.
Shar, on the other hand, would whine and cry. Whether we were going for a walk or to the park or even just to the back yard, she would whine and she would cry for the entire walk or for the duration of playtime. Sometimes it was because I wouldn't allow her to bring "indoor" toys (dolls) outside. She never wanted to play what the other kids were playing unless she could also play with dolls. So if we were on our way to the park with a bucket full of giant chalk, she would refuse to play with the chalk to prove her point.
When I allowed her to play with a doll by herself, she was complacent - to a point. She wanted everybody else to play dolls with her and would cry when they wouldn't. Most of the time they didn't want to play dolls, so most of the time she cried.
When I discovered that 8 year-old-Barker hid under the covers and pulled down 3-year old Alice's panties during one of the times they played "house" with Shar, I mentioned the behavior to his future stepmother (Dad was hardly ever around). By nature, sexual curiosity is normal, but I had reprimanded Barker twice before for doing the same thing. At eight years old, a child shouldn't have to be reminded over and over again about unacceptable sexual behavior with a three-year-old.
Every time the future stepmother asked about their day, I would comment on the good along with the bad, but every time I mentioned the bad behavior, this woman who lived with them and would soon become their mother would roll her eyes, shake her head, and remind me of how bad their mother was.
Kara and Izzie
In all my years of providing childcare, nothing prepared me for the likes of Kara, 4, and Izzie, 3. Both came with warnings. Kara, defined as a "drama queen" by her mother, turned out to be the equivalent of an emotional train wreck, and Izzie, the future stepdad told me, threw temper tantrums. Sometimes even being forewarned about what you will encounter is not enough preparation.
The tantrums the future stepfather referred to were actually violent head bashing, body slamming, and uncontrollable shrill screams that included throwing heavy items into walls. "Drama queen" meant that if you couldn't read Kara's mind, she would throw herself into a sobfest, and wouldn't allow you to ask her what you were supposed to instinctively know. Had I been blessed with highly developed ESP, I might have known what came next - her vomiting all over everything.
These two children experienced a minimum of two meltdowns every day - each - with no warning, no trigger, and no apparent reason for falling apart. They required all-consuming attention. If they saw anybody else being hugged or held, they crashed. And when I hugged or held them, they didn't want to let go.
Izzie followed baby Jake around, smothering him and annoying him. Jake, who was not yet one year old and new at walking, ambled his way around, and soon became so frightened of Izzie, I had to pick up the hysterical baby many times throughout the day to protect him from Izzie.
Every time Izzie grabbed Jake, Jake would fall and cry. I found myself reminding Izzie constantly that while it was nice to want to hug Jake, it made Jake fall. Izzie continued to follow Jake closely, tried running him over with riding toys, grabbed him tightly and let go quickly, which caused Jake to fall again and again, pushed Jake down (I could go on and on), until finally I had to carry Jake everywhere and place him in a high chair during meal and snack preparation times just to protect him.
Kara and Izzie also masturbated frequently. At first I wasn't aware of what they were doing as Kara would shove toys and blankets between her legs and Izzie would find any suitable chair, couch, play equipment, or even the floor to use. I spent an inordinate amount of time engaged in redirecting their behavior - so much time in fact that I had almost no time for anything or anybody else. Even preparing meals and snacks proved to be too much time spent away from them.
Although he was three years old, Izzie couldn't clearly articulate what he wanted to express and Kara's patterns of speech were so disjointed it was sometimes impossible to follow her thought processes. If I said, "Kara, do you know why you're getting a time-out?" she would say, "but there's bugs on the plants, but there's not bugs on the plants, but they are." (That was an actual conversation that took place when I told her she was not allowed to lean back and forth on the chair - in case she fell backward - as she sat at the table to eat. Also, I don't have any plants.)
No matter how many times I repeated my question trying to get her to understand why I was giving her a time-out, she would change the subject, ignore me, and look away. When she discovered I was not going to drop it, she would cry, "My momma's gonna be so mad at me. I'm gonna punch myself in the face. I'm gonna make myself throw up." Figuring this might be a good opportunity to bring up again the reason for her time-out, I asked why her mother would be upset. And she said, "And they would look at my face, but they didn't look at my face, but they did look at my face, but they wouldn't."
When I confronted the mom about my concerns, she became defensive, "Are you saying my kids are bad?" I didn't think her children were bad, I told her, but I had concerns about the way they behaved, and I expressed my concerns.
What will happen to these children?
Unfortunately, because all of these children are no longer in my care, I cannot follow their progress (or lack of it), but I can tell you what I did and did not do about the problems.
Andrea: I did NOT go to court to accuse Andrea's mother of abusing her child. I thought it was absurd that this father, who met me only once, would think I would go to court with him and blame this child's mother for their daughter's behavior when I had never met the woman. The child obviously suffered from some sort of emotional abuse, and possibly from physical abuse as well, but I had no way of knowing who inflicted the pain. If the father assumed the child was riddled with anxiety or suffered from emotional problems, why did he leave her with a stranger? My only hope is that she ultimately received the help she so desperately needed.
Dusty and Blaine: In my own nonprofessional opinion - though I didn't know the symptoms twenty years ago - I believe Dusty suffered from a form of Autism and I think Blaine suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) due to his need for rituals.
Barker & Shar: Barker and Shar's future stepmother represents many parents I've encountered over the years who readily admit when they first meet me that their children have many problems. Yet when I try to discuss those problems that they admitted their children had, they suddenly decide they must find somebody to blame for the problems. Maybe they are embarrassed by their children's behavior or perhaps they are unwilling to face the prospect of having to deal with the problems. In any event, their admissions quickly turn into denials when they are confronted with concerns.
Kara & Izzie: Though I will never know if any of these children suffered from physical and/or sexual abuse, the behavior of Kara and Izzie was so unusual I had to report the problem to the local department of children and family services - not because I wanted to cause problems for the parents - but because I wanted to get help for the children.
As a licensed daycare provider, I am required by law to report suspected abuse. I'm still not sure if their case was one of abuse, but I am sure that something was seriously wrong with these children.
Kara was, in my opinion, sometimes delusional, and though I hesitate to go so far as to say that she was schizophrenic, I do think her mental health was adversely affected by something. Like Dusty, Izzie may have suffered from Autism.
Because of their excessive need to placate themselves with masturbation, I can't help but wonder if Kara and Izzie suffered from some sort of sexual abuse. I don't want to exaggerate their problems, but I also don't want ignore their extreme behaviors.
Most of the aforementioned children left my daycare abruptly after I confronted the parents with their children's behavior. Interestingly, of the seven children mentioned above in the span of more than 45 years, five children were recent additions to my daycare. Four of those five were state-paid. I am not an expert in statistical analysis, but I do wonder about the correlation.
The perception of child abuse.
This article begs the questions, "Are my standards of child care too high? Am I expecting too much of these parents? Are my perceptions of child care distorted?"
Years ago, two little girls came to my door sobbing because their father had picked up their brother by the throat and thrown him into the wall as they watched. Not really wanting to become involved in an investigation, because the family lived across the street from me, I called the school and asked them to see if they could find any signs of abuse.
The school found bruises all over the boy, including bruises on his neck where his father had grabbed him. The school reported the father to the Department of Children and Family Services. It wasn't long before the father figured out that I was the one who initiated the investigation. And he was angry! He told me that it was perfectly normal for a father to pick up a child by the throat and throw him into the wall to get him to behave. His father did it to him and he turned out OK.
I told him that to me, and to probably most other people, those kinds of actions were obviously abusive and just because his father treated him that way didn't mean his father wasn't abusive.
So is "abuse" a matter of perception?
What these children have in common:
We already know that adults suffer from anxiety and depression, but what we may not know is that these problems are not limited to adults. Children also suffer from anxiety and depression. Parents and providers must start paying attention to behaviors that suggest fears, phobias, compulsions, anxiety, depression, and other disorders in order to raise children who will become happy and productive adults.
All of the children discussed in this article have one thing in common: They belong to parents who blame others for their children's behavior and who prefer to take no responsibility for their children's actions. When confronted with difficulties that I (and other providers) encounter, though parents acknowledge problems during the interview, they become suddenly defensive about their children's behavior and insist that the problem lies with the provider, the noncustodial parent, or situations beyond their control - never with them.
That ability to ignore their children's problems by taking no responsibility for dealing with them is the common trait parents of emotionally crippled children (in my experience) share. The only possible explanation might be that acknowledging a problem would require parents to act upon it.
Statistics suggest an increase in the number of children with emotional and behavioral disorders, among them: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Learning Disorders, Conduct Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Autism. (According to, "1 in 150 children are now diagnosed with autism.")
I sometimes wonder if some of these children suffer from a form of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) as well - not just because of the trauma of divorce and separation, but also because of the custodial parent's negative influence brought about by bashing, belittling, and insulting the noncustodial parent. Flippant attitudes by parents who think children are too young to understand what is going on are causing immense distress for children who need comfort, safety, and security. When one parent continuously destroys the character of the other parent, the child becomes damaged no matter how accurate the description is.
Maybe the other parent truly is the reason that a child is acting out. But blaming the other parent and taking no responsibility for the behavior of the child is not going to help the child cope with his or her problems, and destroying the other parent in front of the child destroys a part of the child. A child can have acid thrown in his face by his own mother, but whose name do you think he calls when he is recovering in the hospital?
If my daycare is representative of the flux of these types of disorders, the rest of our world is in trouble. And if parents don't start acknowledging their children's problems and take precautions for preventing, or if it is too late, treating these disorders, teachers will be unable to perform in the classroom due to the number of disruptions that prevent them from doing so. Children who are mentally and emotionally healthy will suffer the consequences.
Interestingly, most parents who love and care about their children acknowledge that their children are sometimes disruptive and unruly. Parents who want you to believe their children are perfect are the ones who cause the most damage to their children.
NOW is the time to step up and pay attention to children who may be autistic or emotionally or behaviorally damaged. Help is available! ALL children have problems from time to time. Admitting that a child has a problem does not mean that parents are bad.
According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Now, more than ever before, there is hope for young people with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Most of the symptoms and distress associated with childhood and adolescent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders can be alleviated with timely and appropriate treatment and supports.
In addition, researchers are working to gain new scientific insights that will lead to better treatments and cures for mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Innovative studies also are exploring new ways of delivering services to prevent and treat these disorders. Research efforts are expected to lead to more effective use of existing treatments, so children and their families can live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives."

Photo credit ©TheresaWiza My grandson, who is not depressed or anxious and is emotionally healthy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

More Help For Single Parents

Click here for some GREAT DEALS – KIDS LOVE THIS!


Tell Others About This Blog