" Can you help me? My son needs to be in some therapy, like a therapy group. Can you recommend one for him?”
I was at the bank, and my favorite banker was doing some last-minute paperwork for me, before my move to another state. She knows I have worked as a child and family therapist for years, and, was lamenting the fact that I would be moving my practice out of state.
“How old is he?” I asked.
“What’s up? What’s going on that makes you look for therapy for him?” I asked.
She looked worried and slightly embarrassed.
“He won’t sleep by himself, and I’m exhausted. I stay in his bed until he falls asleep, and, usually when I get up, he wakes up and cries. If he doesn’t wake up then, he wakes up at two in the morning, screaming and crying for me. He’s a mama’s boy and he’s mad at me a lot of the time.”
I smiled at her. She took a deep breath. “His dad hates me and is mean and yells at me when I drop him off or pick him up. He started having to have visits with his dad, and he doesn’t want to go. When I tell him, ‘Today, you’re going to see your dad,’ he gets upset and cries and sometimes he hits me. When he comes back after the visits, he is really clingy. And when it’s time for him to go to bed, he won’t let go of me. He wants to sleep with me in my bed.”
“Do you let him sleep with you?”
“Well, no … everyone says I shouldn’t.”
“Who says that?” I asked.
“My family, my friends, his pediatrician,” she replied. “They tell me I shouldn’t because he needs to learn that he can’t sleep in my bed.”
“And if they didn’t say that, what would you do?”
“Let him sleep in my bed.”
“Can I ask you a question?” She nodded. “Who knows your child better … your parents, your friends, the pediatrician … or you?”
Her eyes filled up. “I do,” she said softly.
I talked with her about how during times of stress, many kids (and many people) tend to regress. I asked her how old he was acting … his chronological age or older or younger. “Oh, much younger,” she replied. “He used to sleep in his bed by himself. Then when the visits with his dad started, that’s when his behavior changed.”
“What do you know about your son right now? If you were to let him sleep in your bed, would that change anything?”
“Yes, it probably would.”
“Ok, yes!” She smiled.
I returned to the bank the next day.
She came over to me, bubbling with joy. “I let him sleep in my bed last night, and he went to sleep so easily. And this morning, he woke up happy … for the first time in so long! And I was too! We had such a good time, just being together!”
“When you give him what he requires, he’ll catch up developmentally much more quickly than if you fight him. What if he knows better than anyone what he needs?”
What if you could trust what you know? What if you could trust what you know about your child and what your child requires, even if it flies in the face of what all the experts say. And, what if your child knows what he requires? Could trust that?
Some questions you can ask yourself:
What is this? What’s going on with my child? What do I know about my child that I’m pretending not to know? And what else do I know? And what else? And what else? If I were to _______ (let him sleep in my bed; drink out of a bottle again now, even though he hasn’t for a while; pick him up and hold him), what change would that create? What can I be or do different to create more ease here? What does he require?
What do I require?
It’s amazing what you can create when you ask yourself questions and trust what you know! So much easier … and more fun!
Even if your child is preverbal, if you ask him, either energetically or directly, what he requires, you will get a sense of what that is. It may not come in the form of a logical thought. Most likely it will just be a sense of what to say or do or be.
You can also ask your child:
What do you know about your dad? And what else do you know about your dad? What do you know about you? And what else do you know about you? Is there another way you could be with him?
Instead of thinking you have to have the answer to everything, what could you create if you were to ask questions?
Anne Maxwell LCSW
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