Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making connections

Dima had a really bad day on Tuesday. He had some instances of deliberate, intentional disobendience at school towards both his teacher and his principal, he was misbehaving whenever his teacher would turn his back, he refused to participate in class activities, he did some other inappropriate things--it was just generally an all-out bad day.

When Dima is anxious, he chews--on his fingernails, on whatever he's holding (pen, marker, etc.), and on his clothes...usually the cuffs of his sleeves if he's wearing long sleeves. Tuesday, he chewed a hole in the sleeve of his shirt. When I saw that, I knew something was up.

The boys are in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast that their two classes are putting on next week. Parents are invited to come participate in the feast and watch a little program that the classes have been practicing. The program is a few songs with hand motions and I think a couple of poems. On Monday, Dima's teacher had told me that Dima wouldn't participate in the rehearsals--he stands on stage with the classes and laughs along but doesn't actually do the songs. She wasn't sure if he didn't understand or was just being goofy.But Monday night at dinner, he sang the songs to me, complete with hand motions! Then came Tuesday. And a lot of thought on my part.

For those of you not familiar, the orphanages put on programs at various times during the year. Dima was never in school in Ukraine, so his only experience with a program like this was in the orphanage. And I think it was completely freaking him out.

Tuesday after school, Zhenya went with Mark over to work on the house, and Dima and I sat down and talked. I gave him the option of not participating in the singing--not as punishment, just as an option if he didn't want to do it. He initially said he didn't want to sing, but later in the conversation changed his mind. I told him that Mark and I would be coming next week to watch him and Zhenya sing, and he got really excited about that. He decided he did want to sing, and even got up and sang some more for me including the hand motions. ;) We talked a little more about it at bedtime, and I told him again how excited Mark and I are to get to come watch them.

Yesterday, Dima had the best day he's ever had at school.

He obeyed, he participated in the rehearsal for the program--he did everything right. As a reward, he got to go to another class to see their gerbils (he LOVES animals) and he got a little certificate sent home saying what a great day he had. The best part? He was so excited to have had such a good day.

Was all of his stress due to the program? I don't know. It's a trigger that never would have occurred to me, but it helps me remember that I need to be vigilant about paying attention to his stress cues (namely the chewing) and trying to ferret out what's going on. It also emphasizes to me how important it is that Mark and I be involved in the new things he does, to help reassure him that it's all okay. And I continue praying that God would help heal their minds. I don't want them to forget, but I don't want all of their experiences now to be tainted with the fear and bitterness of the past. I want them to be able to remember, but also to know that that was then, and this is now, and then and now are different.


Diana said...

My son picks at himself when he is stressed. He'll pick scabs, fingernails, toenails, or he'll just pick until there's something to pick at.

I'd bet the farm I don't have that the stress WAS related to the program - but he may or may not know why.

Courtney said...

I'm pretty sure he doesn't know why (specifically) but I'm pretty sure it was related to that too. There've just been some other things going on at school as well, and with the holidays coming up, I'm not sure it's the ONLY thing stressing him out. But after his great day yesterday, I'm hoping we're on the right track. :)

And I can completely relate to Dima and your son--I bite my fingernails or pick at them when I'm anxious or excited. ;)

MamaPoRuski said...

So glad you figured this out! The triggers never stop it seems! We finally put ours to be early, let him sleep in the next day and he seems better for it, so our guy may just need more sleep during this stressful season!

Tina said...

The last line of this post is a winner. For very different reasons, I didn't have involved parents, and it hurt. It makes me happy to read about your wanting to pay more attention to the new things he's learning and doing.

This is unrelated, but I'm rather enjoying reading your blog, as I'm sitting in YOUR house, using YOUR computer. :)

Julie said...

Do you have any advice for me? Michael chews stuff all the time. Both of his belts are frayed so badly at the end I have to buy him new ones. And, one day when I picked him up from school his shirt was blowing in the breeze. He had chewed off all but the top button.

It has gotten better this year. But, he still seems very oral. We've tried gum, and that just makes him put his fingers in his mouth.

I'm trying to link it to an emotion that he may be experiencing. But, having a hard time nailing something down.

Debbie said...

I'm so glad to hear how you were able to help Dima through this, and it's neat to see how excited he was to have had a good day. :-) This helps me to learn how to help our future children. Yay, Dima!