Toddler, psychological issues, help!

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 1:32am
ErikaP's picture
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Joined: 07/24/2000 - 09:00

I have two related issues which are foremost in my mind these days. They both are connected to my 3-1/2 year old son's emotional/mental state.

My son had his latest 'big deal' allergy episode approximately six weeks ago when he accidentally ate a scone with walnuts in it. He definitely seemed to have some post trauma fall out as a result of the episode, and although it has improved a good deal, we are still dealing with some residual. For example, he remains terrified to be left alone at night; he's sleep is extremely disrupted. And things which may have made him a little upset before this episode, reduce him to hysterics now. He also remains very clingy.

Now, in addition to this, he has in two recent instances grabbed at food from unknown children in the play yard. (One instance was a chocolate bar!!) We've come down pretty hard on him for doing this, but this behavior continues. I are worried about taking the fear factor up too high. In addition, he will argue when someone is eating something appealing, that he knows its not nutty and that it won't make him sick.(Other people saying that a Kit Kat, for example, doesn't have nuts to him again and again doesn't make this any easier.)

Is anyone else dealing with this? How can I impress upon him the danger of what he's doing without making him more afraid? He's a really social kid and I don't want to simply lock him up.

Thanks in advance.

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 2:10am
anonymous's picture
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

You know, in one of the recent articles I read on peanut allergies, post-traumatic stress syndrome was mentioned. It seems that some people, after suffering a dangerous anaphylactic reaction, experienced symptoms similar to those seen with this syndrome. I have no idea how it relates to or affects children, but it's just a thought on this topic. It's a question for a doctor too.
As for the candy situation, do you make sure he has a supply of edible candy just for him? My son was diagnosed at 3 and is 4 1/2 now. He has his own stash of candy bars, and I either buy or make his raisin clusters, mint creams, fruit creams, etc. You may want to check out the Smarties thread, too. Having several candy options available to him may reduce his need to grab what looks good to him. Keeping a stash in your purse can help too.
And remember, a mild to moderate amount of fear can be a good thing. It's a good fear, not a crippling fear that our children have to have to stay safe (or rather safer).
Good luck!

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 3:23am
arachide's picture
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Joined: 08/16/2000 - 09:00

How were your son's sleeping habits before his big episode?
I don't mean to downplay the stress-syndrome at all, but could his recent night-time behaviour be a convenient (for him) way of avoiding going to bed and being in his room alone? Maybe he sees his night behaviour as a way of getting what he wants because he sees how upsetting the situation is to you. Could he be "pushing your buttons" with a newfound arsenal of "this is how I get Mom to cave-in"?
If he were truly traumatized, why lunge for candy he's been told is unsafe? He wants candy, but like most toddlers, he doesn't want to go to bed (see what I mean?)
A few months ago, my son, who hates vegetables, "fearfully" complained to me that if he ate his carrots he would get allergic and throw-up. He was 3

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 4:09am
ErikaP's picture
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Joined: 07/24/2000 - 09:00

To elaborate a little more, the sleep and other problems kicked in hard and heavy the day after the episode and have been accompanied by frequent comments about death and dying. Also, his patterns - sleep and otherwise - have been consistently improving since about ten days after the episode.
There was one other thing that was different this time: this episode of anaphylaxis was accompanied by severe panic on his part, something I had never seen from him before. Also, the ER doctors kept him at the hospital much longer, he had more shots and his first IV, and they discussed, within his hearing, what happened with a higher level of concern. (For example, comments like "I would think twice about taking this kid on an airplane, he could die before you hit the ground" were made in his presense!) This kid has had dozens of severe reactions, but for whatever combination of reasons, this is the first to have really taken the wind out of his sails.
In terms of his behavior on the playground, the foods he's grabbing at are all foods that HE insists HE knows are safe. Now, he doesn't eat anything we don't choose for him. He has had to opt out of the given food at parties and occasions of all sorts. He's been in daycare for years and he certainly knows the routine. But suddenly, he's refusing to play by the rules. This is what is confusing me.
The last two severe reactions that he has had were from foods we gave him. He is very much aware of the fact that I have made mistakes (in fact, he keeps telling people so) and seems to be insisting that he can 'know' things too. Again, I think this attitude of I can know best, too is not unheard of for this age. I may be over analyzing this and this twist is something this is really confusing me. Hence my post but I keep thinking there is something a little bit different from his normal button pushing going on here. Then again, I guess I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I have to figure out how to fix this behaviour, and scaring him seems to be backfiring right now.

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 5:57am
booandbrimom's picture
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Joined: 08/23/2000 - 09:00

We've dealt with some of these issues... My son also wants to assert his independence and control the situation by "knowing" what's safe. I think it's a direct response to the same situation you describe: we gave him something that turned out not to be safe and he ended up in the ER.
Finding a helpful way for your son to regain control is important. He's very young, but you might start reading ingredients and warning labels with him. In the playground situation, you could say "see, it says here on the label may contain nuts, and that means that we know for sure it's not safe." It's really hard to find out that your parents are fallible and that the world is not a safe place.
With regard to the post-trauma of the ER visit, our doctor told us to encourage talking and re-enactment without pushing. My son needed to tell everyone for a while that he got an IV. I would hear him mumbling to himself every so often about "I could die" and "we put the needle in his arm" etc., and I guess that's healthy.
Also, although we've never addressed the death thing head on, it's been introduced by the doctors, so perhaps you want to at this point. I had a similar talk with my son within the last year because his reactions have become more severe and he was figuring out that there was more here than meets the eye (or otherwise, why was mom so hyper?). I explained in broad terms what anaphylaxis was and why we worry about it (that in extreme cases, it can cause people to stop breathing) but that doctors know how to treat it and that it's just one of the differences some people are born with. It helps if you have an adult role model you can reference - my sister has diabetes and she and my son talk quite often about what it feels like to be in situations where they can't eat what everyone else is having.
Also, perhaps a peer group with children who are experiencing the same thing might help. We have one here in Chicago, but I know they're not everywhere. Ask your doctor or school administrator for the names of parents who might be interested, or provide them with a flyer so they can give it to other parents.
Giving the child back control and being open about the issues (without being inappropriate age-wise or tapping into your own unaddressed issues) are the key. Good luck - you're not alone!

Posted on: Wed, 06/20/2001 - 6:21am
willistl's picture
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Joined: 06/12/2001 - 09:00

The trauma issue that you describe is very similar to those who suffer from a fear of flying. The data indicate that those who fear flying are typically not first time flyers, but rather those that have flown several times and experience some pretty rough rides. I see a strong analogy to your situation so I would assume that you would treat it the same way - with a Doctor's help. BUT, I seriously doubt that a 3 1/2 year old is capable of responding to therapy or logic (as you describe elsewhere in your note). I guess medication is a possibility, but it would have to be VERY bad before I would medicate my 3 1/2 year old.
My daughter (10 yr old) heard similar comments from doctor's re severity and death and that set us back a bit as well.
Sound like an independent little fella! God bless him for that!

Posted on: Thu, 06/21/2001 - 2:29am
anonymous's picture
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

I want to thank everyone for their kind comments and ideas. Although I've never been terribly keen on giving out junk food, I do think that keeping him stocked with safe counterparts to what the kids in the yard have is the right answer here - even if it is junk food. I am also in the process of getting hooked up with Smarties. I had never thought of having him 'participate' in the label reading, but I think that's a great idea. I'm also hoping to link up with some other families in my area so that he can have experiences with other kids 'like him'.
Thanks again.

Posted on: Thu, 06/21/2001 - 4:28am
jrizos's picture
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Joined: 05/30/2000 - 09:00

Know one else will know your child better than you. The hospital experience may have been so traumatic and because of his age he cannot express himself verbally well. He will express himself when he plays. You can call the hospital or the doctors office and ask them for some advice. My daughter had a post traumatic stress episode. It was about 6 weeks after the incident occurred and she was not able to talk with anyone about the incident untill after she had the episode. I could talk to her about the incident but I guess it was not any help untill my child opened up and started to talk about it herself. Her behavior was much improved after she started to talk about her experience with me and a school counselor. Your child may benefit from playing with some of the hospital equipment that seemed so scary to him. The local hopital here let my children go to the hospital and play with some of the equipment before one of my children went in for surgery. I think it was very helpful. My child was lucky and was asleep when he had the needle.
Remember that at the age of three children are autonomous and want to make decisions about what they eat. Offer him foods that he likes to eat when he is around other children. My pa son is 2 and I have been letting him know what he can eat at a party, what is safe and i bring something that i baked from home.

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