Single Mom Has 7 Year Old Boy with Emotional Issues.

Updated on February 18, 2008
V.H. asks from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
28 answers

I'm recently divorced and my 7 year old son is overreacting to the smallest things and gets frustrated very easily. He feels that the world is against him and he gets extremely upset and will even start banging his head on a wall. His confidence is lacking and it seems like he's emotionally unraveling before my eyes. At first I would just try to talk to him but that didn't really work. Then I would try discipline and that works sometimes because it "snaps" him out of his "head" but that is just temporary. Now it's really alarming me and worrying his teachers. He struggles to maintain his focus on schoolwork or even if you just give him a simple 2 step task. He has friends, he's a good athlete and is a very loving and caring child. His dad doesn't provide him with a good male role model and I think that is what he really needs. I've tried reaching out to churches and Big Brother programs but they start at 4th grade and he's too young to participate. His guidance counselor works with him but it's just not making a big enough of a difference. I'm desperate for some advice that doesn't cost a fortune because money is tight and at the moment there is no medical insurance. I'm willing to consider anything!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks evryone for your advice and concern. You all had valuable things to say that helped. I may be reaching out to some of you so don't be surprised if you hear from me. My son's dad is responding a tiny bit better now and I'm trying to get my son in to see a therapist on a sliding scale. I've also slowed up our life a little. Cut down the frenzy and added more quality time. Sugar has also been eliminated from his diet. What a big diference that made! Thanks again everyone!!!!!!!!!

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M.C.

answers from Daytona Beach on

Are you having talks with him? Just casually bringing things up and actively listening (repeating to him what you think he's trying to say?) Maybe that would give you a clear indication of what his upset is and you'd be able to talk to him, maybe even give him Bach Flower Essences to help him balance.

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G.M.

answers from San Francisco on

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J.C.

answers from Orlando on

Hi V.:
You are a strong and courageous mom, WOW. I just want to tell you that this too shall pass. I use to be a pre schoolteacher for low-income children. Some of my students expressed a need for special attention. They pretty much displayed some of the behaviors you described. There is an agency, which mothers where referred to its called BETA.
http://www.betacenter.org/parent/families.htm
Try them. They might be able to refer you to another agency if they cannot help. They really assisted some of my students and their parents. I will be praying for you and your children. All is well V., it will pass.

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K.C.

answers from Daytona Beach on

I can really understand where you are coming from . I am a 41 year old single mom with a 4 yr. old and a 6 yr. old. It is very hard for them to deal with divorce and the feeling that they are going through at the age that your son is at. I was able to find a counsler who specialized in play therapy for my son and it was a very good experience for him. Check out the internet to see more info about it and check with your sons school counselor to see if they can refer anyone to you. It can be expensive, but my sons doctor worked with me because of being a single mom and we both agreed that the most impartant thing was for my son to get the help he needed to get through the pain. I would call around to some family help centers to see if their is any kind of assistance they can help you with. Play therapy is a great way for them to work out their issues. Good Luck and I will keep you in my prayers.

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A.W.

answers from Jacksonville on

Hi,

Have you considered Vyvanse for the focusing challenge? My daughter is 11 and my ex wouldn't let her try anything for years, and now we both wish we would have tried it earlier. She now gets her homework done in school where it used to take 4 hours at home. I have a friend whose 10 year old son is on it too. Makes a world of difference for both of them.

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J.P.

answers from Orlando on

I am very sorry to hear of this situation. In all instances, he needs time with his father. But positive time. Time where they go fishing or do something together. I hope he's not a dirtbag that would talk bad about you because that is the last thing a child needs, but all in all, he sounds like he needs his dad.

I know that's probably the last thing you want to hear, but only recently have I noticed how much influence my husband really has on our children, more specifically my son. I Thank God everyday that I let my hubby back home (over a year ago) because it is really paying off with our children (and also for me).

Even recently, with a move ahead of us and financial struggles, and my husband working alot, my husband has been short tempered with my son and hasn't spent any quality time with him. I see the EXACT same things as you've described above. I had to talk with Pete and tell him to be very careful how he treats our son because he's starting to feel unwanted. My son actually said "everyone is always mad at me!" He's only 3!!!!!!

So, in sum, I admire that you are doing all you can and I pray that his father can start doing things together with him. That is what will help him most.

In God We Trust,
J.

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A.B.

answers from Jacksonville on

Hi, V. - I just joined mamasource thanks to a friend who lives in California. I am a mother of a 10 year old, and altough I am not going thru anything like what you've going thru I feel can speak to you as if you were one of my friends: What I've observed in my son is that when he's feeling down by personally helping someone else who has an emotional or material need it helps him value what he has (mom, loved ones, a home) and lets him sort out the fact that life has a mix of not just things that fit within our idea of normality but also of things that are out of anyone's control. I hope you find the wisdom and strenght needed to be yourself the spiritual and emotional guide your son needs. A.

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P.G.

answers from Orlando on

It is obvious that your son is grieving the loss of his parent's marriage, and the loss of his father's daily presence. This is a very scary time for him emotionally. Children don't know how to express their emotions appropriately so they often act them out. This is why punishing him for being emotional is counterproductive. You are teaching him that it's not okay to feel angry, sad, frustrated, confused, etc.. Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson is a great book that discusses why children 'misbehave' and how to positively cope with their behavior.

If you are interested that are several places in Central Florida that provide sliding scale counseling. Off the top of my head I can think of Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family Services, and UCF Counseling Center. There are more but I don't have the information in front of me. If you want more information please contact me off list and I will be happy to provide you with more resources. And no, you don't have to be Catholic or Jewish to get counseling at either of those agencies and there is no religious undertone to the counseling either. Good luck!

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K.W.

answers from Orlando on

I haven't been through your situation as an adult. But as a child, my parents went through a devastating time when I was 7. They separated for 2 years (occasionally dating others as well.)

My mom moved out with us & I was completely lost. Even though my dad wasn't the best dad in the world - -he was still my dad.

I remember my mom would be so angry with me and my sad/angry disposition. My dad pretty much disappeared from my life during those two years. When he did come to pick up the older kids, I was not around because my mom said I was too young & so confused & very very angry.

When you are 7, you don't have the maturity or vocabulary or the understanding of what it all means. You are just a mess. I was sick a lot with these mysterious fevers. And my mom stopped taking me to the doctor because she figured I worked myself into a frenzy again.

Looking back, if my mom had spent some one-on-one time with me just going to the library or a museum or even a walk -- something simple -- I think that would have helped. I would have felt not so forgotton. I have two older brothers & sister -- so I was lost in the pack.

Also, since your child is a boy, you have to have some friends who have husbands. My friend is recently widowed -- and she is calling on any and all husband's of friends to just go play 9 holes with her 6 year old son -- or minature golf or car racing fun on 436 -- an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday is something my husband will do with her son -- maybe, including my older girls.......not sure what my friend wants, but I'll help her out in any way.

Does Boy Scouts --with all the males in that club -- don't they start at 7 years old? The best of luck to you. You sound like a concerned mom. I love my mom (and dad)-- they got back together by the way -- not sure that was the best idea for both of them (and us kids).....but who knows?

I'm basically normal & healthy-minded. I do remember all the anger & loss of control. I also thought if I had been a better kid none of this would have happened.

I was more angry at my mom than my dad -- because I could be...she was the one I was living with. Oh, the one good thing I remember my mom did -- she enrolled all of us into soccer. It really helped my older brothers. It kinda kept us all busy, if I remember correctly. (I remember waiting for my brother's games to end:) Nowdays, the YMCA is reasonable if yours has soccer.

I can't think of too much else except if your insurance covers family/child therapy.

A divorce is like a death even though everyone is still living.

Just writing about it now & my parents getting back together a few years laters when I was pre-teen (and the battles that ensued after that), I still feel the anger swell inside of me of how utterly confused and afraid I was.
If my dad could just disappear & show up now & then, then anyone I loved could do the same thing. Scary thoughts for a little kid who just wants to watch cartoons, eat ice cream & play, play, play.
Tara O.

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L.C.

answers from Jacksonville on

Hope Haven of Jacksonville has a divorce program and they also have income based counciling services. Little boys are hard to figure out. Some times they just need a little more attention to get through things. Well good luck.

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A.R.

answers from Orlando on

Has this started suddenly after the divorce or was it already happeneing leading up to it? If he wasn't like this before, he needs help understanding divorce.....That may not be what's bothering him, though. I have no way of knowing.

He needs a safer way of expressing himself when he can't take it. My son is 5. We went through a period where he would get mad. He used to have seizures and I didn't want him to cry a lot. I gave him two stressballs. One for each hand. I told him to squeeze the heck outa those things until he felt calm enough to tell me what was bothering him. Maybe you could ask him what he thought might work......this way he is addressing his anger before it overwhelms him.

I know this is completely different. There is a counselor on 17th street in St Cloud....I forget the name, but she does things based on your income. She's a Christian counselor, but I have heard that her counseling is focused on humanity rather than religion....

I guess if you googled that on your computer you might find the name. Sorry, can't rememeber it.

What would I do.....identify the change and address it. Are YOU dealing with the divorce well? If you are, he will see you as an example of how to move on in a positive manner. If you aren't, well he has no way of coping.

You need to show him that you are listening, you are patient, you have the answers and he is safe. He needs positive distractions too. Does he like taking things apart? That's free. You find electronics and old remote control cars that people throw out, take em apart. Show him how to use tools and do that with him. Then you discuss how the thing might work. If you don't know you guess....It's a good distraction.

Expectation. Change your expectations and make them audible. "so and so, I know you can handle this chore because you have always done such a good job. You're such a good kid"

Positive reinforcement "maybe you have extra power in your head! A lot of people who have really violent reactions as children grow up to have the answers to tough questions. They become problem solvers. Maybe you are menat for greatness and this is the turning point for you before you realize that."

It sounds crazy, I know, but what works with him? What does he like? Compare him to what he like or looks up to somehow as though he really had those qualities....do it all the time. He'll believe you and very well may become that.

That's all I can offer! Sorry, good luck. Congradulations on your divorce. Sorry, but in my experience they can be the gateway to new happiness.

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J.K.

answers from Pensacola on

I have an adult son who was really stressed as a child when there were changes in his life. he was diagnosed as slightly ADHD. Your Dr would be able to assist with this. Otherwise I would suggest trying to keep a definate routine going. He may need to find a new consistancy in his life right now. Keep disiplining him with love and he will find that you are the stability in his life that he so badly needs.

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T.E.

answers from Orlando on

I just separated from my husband and my 6 1/2 boy was having difficulties too. He was sad, and mad, and felt he couldnt be happy with the sadness of the separation. He was starting to have discipline problems in school- which was very unlike him. Both myself and my husband spoke with him-- but it really helped him to speak with a counselor- so he didnt have to worry about my feelings. He was, despite our conversations trying to take responsibility to "help" daddy with his problems. The counselor explained that it wasnt his job or his mom's job to "help" daddy but daddy's job and that dialogue seemed to take some of the pressure off of my son. I also spoke with his teacher and told him of other children in his class at school that were from divorced or separated families so that he wouldnt feel alone.

I highly recommend "Misty Forest" and Chimene Hurst who runs a homeschool/afterschool/adult parenting classes that bases her childrens programs on positive self esteem. The facility is in downtown Orlando on Hyer Street. (2 doors down from Hillcrest Elementary) I am sure she will work with you on your budget. I know Chimene helps my son with his feelings and concerns and I am so grateful for her help.

WWW.MistyForestAcademy.com

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A.C.

answers from Pensacola on

I am a single mom too. The only advice I can offer you is to love him even more. It sounds like he is suffering right now. His world has changed and he is powerless. Give him lots of reinforcement for the positive things he does. Have him play tee-ball or something that is positive and can build his self esteem. My YMCA let me pay whatever I had to let my daughter play tee-ball. My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family. Prayer is a powerful tool and it's FREE!

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J.A.

answers from Orlando on

Hi Vivan
My advise to you would to be seek a therapist My daughter went through a very tramatic thing in her life and I could not have done it with out the grace of God and a good christian therapist.I know our church offers counsling at no cost or on a sliding scale(in St.Cloud)keep looking and pray that god leads you to one near you or even far away.It is always worth it it has been 18 months of sometimes 2 x a week sessions with my daughter and Itraveling up to an hour for sessions but it was worth every dime! My daugter now thinks of her therpist as a additional friend and they write notes back and forth she see her only periodaclly any more but when she was going several times a week we needed it. Just keep looking until you find one
God Bless you and keep you and your family my heart goes out to you and if you would like someone to talk to please contact me privatly.
J.

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L.S.

answers from Fort Walton Beach on

Since there is no medical, I would continue with the guidance counselor as much as you can. When you do get insurance, I would go to a therapist. My step daughter does the same thing. He Mom left when she was three, we did the emotions at a younger age. But we went to a therapist, and she is a totally different kid now, she even listens a bit better!

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P.E.

answers from Panama City on

It is all normal. Basically to him, his dad died and to him it's his fault. Schools do have exceptional education for this kind of student. Try a psychologist

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A.H.

answers from Jacksonville on

Im sorry about what you are going through. Churches have very good male role models. I would also recommend at that church letting him be apart of a sunday school. They learn so much from these classes about how different people in the bible went through struggles and how they overcame and what they learned from it. And of course just tell him everyday how he is loved and that you are pround of him. And just good ole prayer works wonders!

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J.S.

answers from Daytona Beach on

You didn't mention much about your 5 year old daughter. You need to be firm and let him know what behaviours are not acceptable and provide acceptable ones. When my boy's father left us, a psychiatrist recommended that I get playdough and fingerpaints for my then 15 month old to vent his frustrations. I know your boy is older, but still is a little boy, so needs to be shown ways to vent. Screaming into a pillow, running an obstacle course etc.. I still think the playdough is good or some other thing he can build and destroy in a sandpit perhaps. Whatever you do, don't talk negatively about your ex at all in front of the kids, as that can be very confusing for them, esp. when they often think they are the reason for the breakup-even if we know they aren't. Good luck:)

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S.B.

answers from Daytona Beach on

There are a few things that I think would help you to know in addressing this situation: First, your son has just lost his father. It has been studied and divorce is uncannily like a death fot those going through it, even the children. Addressing your son's behavior from that perspective will help tremendously. Second, if he has jost had a traumatic and substantial loss then it is important to address his grief. Third, he needs to know that you are not going to go away! As you address the above be sure to assure him that you are there for him and that you are not going to leave him. Fourth, it will be important to allow him to get the hurt out, but do not allow him in doing that to become mindless of boundaries. In other words don't sweat the small stuff, but when boundaries become the issue then you must be a firm parent. See if you can allow him to draw or espress how he's feeling about your family right now and then ask him to explain the picture . You need to do this without judgement of his comments or his work. If you can do that you will be a mazzed ath what he will tell you.
Blessings <><

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D.R.

answers from Daytona Beach on

Hi V.. I can relate to your challenge with your son. I dealt with similar issues years ago. I don't know about your lifestyle or nutritional choices, but what I found worked for my son, was a diet that avoided all the sweets and junk food kids tend to "crave". They crave them because they are addicting, and manufacturers make them that way. But when they are eliminated, or at least avoided when possible, it makes a WORLD of difference. My husband has passed away, over 2 years now, and my son still struggles. I've tried to find him a male mentor also, and finally have after these 2 years. It's slowly helping. I heard an expression, that it takes time to turn the Titanic around, and it's that way when our children need our help in a crisis or difficult time. It takes our time and effort, and in the long run, it's worth it. I wish you the best and will send positive thoughts your way! D.

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B.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi V., I hear you loud and clear. For 10 years I worked in the public school system with families with challenges much like yours. I retired from that 2 years ago to branch out and really help families.

My experience is with families, kids and nutrition and how it affects their behaviours, their learning and most importantly their mental well being. If you would like to chat about it, please send me an email.

There is not cost to talk to me. We will chat and i will give you some suggestions. The decison after that is up to you. The chat is free.

B., B.A.:B.Ed.
www.HeyYouGetReal.com
[email protected]____.com

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T.M.

answers from Fort Walton Beach on

V.,
If you belong to a church speak with the preacher, or priest. They usually have a degree in psychology and can be a big help. I like speaking with my priest because he is so loving and understanding.
My view is that he isn't doing well with the change in the house. And children love even the worst father in the world. He maybe missing him, and having a hard time with the change in the home. He needs some way of expressing what is bothering him and a tender ear to listen (not that your not doing this already).
You mentioned that he does well in sports. I noticed that it is base ball season again and the are taking registration for this spring.
Good luck and God Bless,
TerryM

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B.R.

answers from Orlando on

Hi V., My name is B. I am a single mom and I have a two girls, 10 & 5. My 10 yr. old is very emotional. This can be very stressful. She met her biological father for the first time last summer. We have been dealing with so much I have realized recently that she fed much of the time off of my emotions, even when I didn't know I was sending bad vibes. I spoke to my pastors wife just this past week and it really helped me realize that even though I felt like I had made so many mistakes I needed to know I was forgiven. Are you a member of a church community? I feel being in a strong environment with lots of support has gotten us through so much. I would recommend to listen to your son. I know you probably do this already, but no matter when or what you are doing, just get him talking. Hug Him, hold him, let him know this was not his fault and he did nothing wrong. Also, conselling is a great idea. My daughter sees her psychiatrist every three months. Let me know if this helps. And if your interested in a church, you are welcome to join me and my girls any Sunday. The name of our church is Crosspointe Church of Orlando. Our website is www.xpointe.com check it out!

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R.E.

answers from Jacksonville on

Your son sounds like my son a few years ago. A few sessions with a children's therapist helped him put his emotions into words so he could be helped. Lots of places have sliding-scales for fees for those who are financially bad-off.

I strongly reccommend this as it changed my sons' life!

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C.D.

answers from Orlando on

Dear V.,
I'm so sorry to hear that your family is going through such a hard time. I know how hard it can be to watch your kids go through pain. Your son is grieving and needs an outlet to express his pain and confusion. Their are groups for kids living with divorce in the schools, churches and specific grief organizations for kids than can support you. John Gottman's "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" is a great book for parents needing to coach kids through tough emotions. Be patient, it takes time. You are the greatest support he has. He will get through this and so will you.

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R.D.

answers from Orlando on

Dear V.
I am so sorry you are in a fix right now.
When there is divorce in the familey a child does not understand and has a Tendency to blame himself or herself for the divorce . Just give him love and try an be there 4 him
When we lived in Texas as my hubby was in the Navy , I use to Council children for Doctor Lou Lonzi and I wish I knew where u live as maybe I could help he will weather tru this just time and Patience.
I am a Grand-Mother and a Great Grand-Mother and I have helped so many chidren in the past.
Just reassure him it was not his fault
Do not go into to much detail just tell him and reassure him he is safe and you love him and everyting is goig to be ok do not dwell on the saddnest he is feeling just love him more
Do u all go to Church ?
Does he have any friends ?
Get him involved with a Sport or Bowling or Little Legue or Soccer
Busy his mind so to speak
I/M me back if I can help and Good Luck

God Be with u and your little familey
Sicerely ,
R. D

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J.I.

answers from Gainesville on

Dear V., I am so sorry for the challenging time that your family is experiencing. You have received some really good suggestions in the other responses. I just wanted to also state that your son is grieving for the loss of his family and father, and there is no instant magic solution to help him through this. It is difficult when adults are feeling stressed and unhappy to also have to deal with our children's difficult emotions. But they do not have the coping skills and maturity to easily handle this kind of pain. Try to view things from his perspective, for it will be different from your own. You may be grateful that the relationship is over, but while you can end a marriage, this man will always be his father, for better or worse. Their relationship must be supported, as difficult as this may be for you, to the extent that your children are physically and emotionally safe with him. Make sure that you do not speak badly to the children about their father, but find others to listen to your negative feelings or thoughts. he must not feel that he is not allowed to love his father anymore. This takes a lot of maturity and self-restraint; I know for I have been there myself and it is not easy. And because you are the parent that is there with him, you will bear the brunt of responsibility in helping him through this. Life is full of unfairness! He needs to feel safe and understood. This is not the time for stern discipline, but love and understanding. There are no bad emotions: it is only how we express our emotions that can be either healthy or destructive. This is an important lesson that you can teach him: how to identify and appropraitely express his feelings. You cannot take his pain away but you can be by his side as he is experiencing it. Think of a time you experienced a loss that no one could fix, such as the death of a loved one. Did you have someone to hold and listen to you while you grieved? What a world of difference that can make when we are hurting! I would focus on finding support for him in dealing with this loss, and for yourself as well. You can continue to explore ways for him to spend time with men that are good role models but this can come in the future. Right now he doesn't want another man, he wants his dad! No one is ready to start dating immediately after the death of a beloved partner! Don;t forget to take some time each day to nurture and care for yourself. As a single parent this is essential, and it is not being selfish. It will help you cope better in all areas of your life. Please try to bre patient with yourself and your son. Good luck to you all!

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