Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Strengthening His Shields

"What's wrong with him?" If you've ever been asked that about your child I'm sure you understand how painful it is, especially when the question comes up a lot.

Jonas had a rough afternoon yesterday. His meds wore off at school and he went off the rails for a little while, so I've fielded that question a few times over the last couple of days. Kids being kids, their intentions are innocent. They just want to understand. They don't think about how he feels when they ask. Some of the adults don't either. They must think that he's deaf or too dumb to understand when they do it. The parent that today suggested that all "those kids" be put into a special class doesn't get it. My friend who's upset because poor little Janey gets distracted by another of "those kids" in her class doesn't get it. And the parent who blamed Jonas after watching his kid tell a joke that started a giggle fest at home time yesterday? He doesn't get it get either.  

When Grade One started, it didn't take long for the pieces to start stacking up against Jonas. It started on the school yard before the first bell ever rang. He didn't seem to be following the same rule book as the other kids, and always seemed to be the one who ruined whatever the game of the day was. Even when the other kids were making the same mistakes, he got flak and they didn't. Soon it felt like I had to talk to the teacher every day about something that went wrong in class. After a few weeks, the other kids started telling me what happened before the teacher even had a chance, and it wasn't long before some of the other parents started to get into the act. It's still like a game for some of them. It quickly became apparent that he was labled the trouble-maker. The difficult one.

Navigating through childhood is tough enough without the added challenge of ADHD. Some of us forget that he's just a kid, and ALL kids have a LOT of learning to do. I haven't met one yet that's perfect. Our words and actions can do long-lasting damage, and the biggest casualty is his self-esteem. He's a smart kid and he knows that he's different from the other kids. They stare, point and whisper and, because I've got a good relationship with many of them, they also ask me "What's wrong with him?"

That's a really tough one to acknowledge without reaffirming the "it's all his fault" mentality. Jonas is a wonderful kid, and despite his good intentions, nothing seems easy for him. He doesn't like being in trouble. What kid does? He desperately wants to do things "right", make people happy, and be a "good boy". When things go off the rails the pain of it is clear to see. He stuggles with maintaining a positive self-image. A bad day at school, or rough moment at the park or Beaver Scouts, makes him think badly about himself, especially when it isn't handled well by adults.

Teaching our kids to fight their own battles is tough. When Jonas comes to me after someone hurts his feelings, it breaks my heart. I validate his feelings, try to help him understand the other person's perspective, and try to teach him how to deal with other people, but I can't do a thing about how they choose to act. That's an important lesson for him. We can only do our best to treat other people the way we want to be treated, the rest is up to them. Sometimes he has to work harder than everyone else to do the right thing, and all he can do is keep doing his best, and try to strengthen his shields!


If only we could reinforce his emotional shield at Toys R Us!

His big sister helping to use his shield.


  1. BIG sigh .... yes, yes, oh yes ....